Friday, December 25, 2020
THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTMAS
SCRIPTURE: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Finally! Christmas Day has arrived. In the dark and cold of night, the longing, anticipation, and faint hope of Advent gives way to a wonderful proclamation. Behold, good news of great joy for all people has come! A child is born: a Son, a Savior, the Messiah. The age-old promises were fulfilled as the Word became flesh, and the glory of God in the person of Jesus entered into the brokenness and mess of a fallen world. Distant and abstract became concrete and tangible as human hands embraced the eternal God. An amazing gift and blessing has been received – one certainly worth rejoicing over. Even the craziness and chaos of 2020 cannot diminish our joy in celebrating our newborn King!
And there we go. A sacred and beautiful moment is interrupted – AGAIN – by the disappointment of an incredibly difficult year. Yes, we know our joy cannot be diminished, yet the constant presence of a pandemic is really getting old. Can’t we just make it through Christmas without dealing with that? For many of us, the answer is a weary no. Family or friends are not here and traditions are interrupted. While Christmas is joyful and good, we’re still left with a sense of wanting.
As I was reflecting on all this, I had one of those “laugh out loud” moments. My mind went to one of the Leight family’s Christmas traditions… albeit a very secular one. At some point every Christmas day we inevitably find ourselves gathered around the TV watching A Christmas Story. Not the one about a manger, mind you… the one about Ralphie Parker’s insatiable desire to receive an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” A desire that is always met with “NO! You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Over the years, I’ve justified our “Christmas Story tradition” as a guilty pleasure. After the crazy lead-up to Christmas, it was good family time together as we laughed at an infamous leg lamp, a tongue stuck to a flagpole, and a punishment involving Lifebuoy Soap. Yet a part of me always felt guilty that the plotline was all about secular greed and not about the gift of Jesus… until a moment ago.
In my chuckles, I recalled the conversation Ralphie and his dad have after opening all their gifts. When asked by his dad if he got everything he wanted, Ralphie replies “well… almost.” Dad’s response: “Well, that’s life. There’s always next Christmas.” Then, at the moment when all hope had expired, Dad sees one last gift behind the desk. It was Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun!
When we think about it, that IS the essence of Christmas. At just the right moment, when all hope seemingly expired, God breaks in, offering heartfelt joy, abiding peace, unconditional love and abundant, eternal life to anyone and everyone through the gift of Christ Jesus. We are not alone or abandoned; we are joined in the difficulties and struggles by God incarnate who overcomes all through resurrection. We re-experience the arrival of the gift of Jesus today, knowing Jesus enters our lives every day - Thanks be to God!
So, if you’re experiencing a tinge of wanting this Christmas, take heart: Christ is coming! Christ has come! Christ will come again! In Christ we never lose hope, as new life is always breaking in! That’s the timeless story – and gift – of Christmas.
Prayer: Amazing God, thank you for meeting us in our hopes and fears through the gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Guide us to place our full trust in you as we behold and celebrate the good news of Christ’s birth, and strengthen us to go and tell this good news to all people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.