Wrapped up in Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2018

Next year, right before Thanksgiving, steel yourself against the relentless drip of Christmas kitsch which you will be subjected to when you are out in public. Make yourself blind to the blow-up Santas and reindeer, deaf to the faux-jolly songs drifting through the stores, and keep your hands off whatever red, green and white-colored baubles you may run across in their aisles. These things all scream “CHRISTMAS!!!” at us again and again and again, rendering us unable to fight them off and, after a month of exposure, drive us to shy away from anything that has to do with actual Christmas.

No, this isn’t the standard curmudgeonly article bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas. In many ways, it is actually good that this Christian holy day has permeated the culture — it means that the story of Jesus, hidden within the fluff though it may be, is out there to be heard. Even a regularly-broadcast children’s cartoon about a loser and his sickly little tree manages to get the message across — this celebration is not concerned with trees, decorations, carols, or snow, but instead with Jesus. That’s something we can work with; that’s something worth continuing to hand off and over.

This year, and every year, we rejoice together that God has done something so strange, so wonderful, so mysterious, that even those who don’t believe find themselves caught up in the party. God himself is found in that manger; God himself is born of Mary, the son of God who is also one of us, come to save us from sin and death.

How can this be? Why would this be? Look for the greatest and grandest signs you like; we are given Jesus, a baby, and can only look on in wonder with those shepherds the angels sent to find him.

There is in Jesus reason for joy to be broadcast to the world, and for the world to find joy in him, for he is the one God promised who would set right what was broken and shattered by sin. He is the one the prophets of Israel promised would come, and we sing rightly in “O Little Town of Bethlehem” that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

So whatever there might be that has accreted around this day over the years, we can still find our way through to hear God’s promises, to see that they come together at a particular time, in a particular baby, in a particular place, and that this, against all appearances, expectations, and likelihoods, is God for us, Immanuel, Christ Jesus himself. Christ is at the center of it all, and rather than letting these things cause us to be annoyed with Christmas, or to let our vision be obscured and our ears papered over due to too much repetition, perhaps we can have a go at singing along with those “Angels from the Realms of Glory,”: “Come and worship, come and worship — worship Christ, the newborn king.”

May each of you have a merry and joyful Christmas, and know that here is our reason for joy: Jesus, God with us; Jesus, God for us.