“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.”
I have a “love/hate” relationship with Christmas. I love the season, the carols, the worship services, the festival feeling in the air. I enjoy the parties, the friendliness of people and the hope that is all around. I like the decorations, the nativity scenes and the expectation on the faces of children. I like the season.
However, I don't like the commercialism that the days have evolved into. I don't like people feeling they have to outdo what they did last year in gift giving. I don't like the idea that children see Christmas as a time of getting and prepare lists that would make any toy store/video game maker have visions of dollar signs dancing in the air. I don't like the fact that this holiday has evolved from a religious day into a secular celebration. Thus, I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas.
I know I cannot set the clock back, we have “progressed” to where we now are. So, I ask, how can we address the “spiritual” aspects of Advent/Christmas without tossing out other aspects that many find enjoyable and traditional? It is not easy and I struggle with the answer.
One “solution” is to again focus in our congregational life on the meaning of Advent and Christmas. What does it mean to have God coming and being in our midst? How have we “idealized” the events of Christmas and made them into an unrealistic vision? My mother-in-law and I would have wonderful “discussions” on whether or not Jesus cried. She was convinced the carol was right, “the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” I insisted that if he was a baby, a newborn, then crying was natural and it would be unusual if he did not cry. She could not be convinced!
I use that as a simple example of how we have taken what would be natural and turned Christ into something more than human. The “miracle” of Advent and Christmas is that Christ, God, came as one of us. He was born as we are born. He was not found under a “Christmas” tree one morning, but struggled in the womb and was born of a woman. He knew the struggle for those first breaths and as his lungs filled he “cried”. God's love was and is so great that God came and lived among us. He walked our roads, ate our food, smelled our air. He knew the dynamics of family living. He knew what it was like to feel pain, sorrow. He wept over Jerusalem.|
None of this is to take away his divinity. Again, the miracle of Advent and Christmas is that he was human and yet divine. He was God and yet humbled himself and became as one of us. The tension and miracle of these days is understanding both Christ's humanity and his divinity. The mystery of our faith.
As we enter the Advent Season, as we prepare again to celebrate the great good news of the Gospel, my prayer is that we do not forget the true meaning of the season: Immanuel, God is with us! The song the angels sang was one of wonder and celebration. The majesty of God came down to earth one night – not so that we could give presents we can't afford to people we really don't like – but to share with us the love of God and to give us a gift we do not deserve – grace and love, peace and truth, hope and faith. Christ came that we might know God and in knowing God understand God's love and God's grace.
My aim is that we do not forget – A God who so loved the world that he gave his only son.