it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139: 1-2, 6)
It is said that Advent is a season of wonder. What is it that fills me with awe? Today (truth be told), I have one foot in the exuberant joy that is just around the corner. I struggle to avoid “skipping ahead” to lose myself in the beloved story. But still, I know that it isn’t just contemplating God coming to earth that fills me with awe. I drag myself back from anticipating the Incarnation to ponder the reality of God being fully present in me, not just on earth. Now, that truly is too wonderful.
The first few days after Christmas can be a bit of a letdown. Some of us are exhausted from shopping, cooking, wrapping, and entertaining. Some of us poured our hearts into decorating our churches or carefully preparing the worship or music. The impact on our moods is predictable. It’s all over.
In our heads, we know the story never ends, but we might struggle with it in our hearts. We continue to remind ourselves throughout the church year that Jesus came, taught us, loved us, and died for us. The story is the same. It’s just the time of the year that changes.
This may be a good time to remind ourselves of the miracle of everyday living. There are days of wonder, but some days are colorless. Somedays we feel close to God; on other days, the awareness of God’s presence eludes us. Most days we just are called to be faithful and trusting, and that is enough.
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people”
Today we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, born so long ago, yet reborn in our hearts each Christmas. This is what makes Christmas a truly joyful and magical time.
Despite the tinsel, hurrying, parties and shopping and even moments of disappointment, loneliness, or sadness, there can be sweet moments this season when we can be assured that Jesus is alive today and his light is shining for each one of us.
For me this has happened in a variety of ways over the years: singing Silent Night in a New York country church while watching the first snowfall, watching the sun rise up over the mountains before anyone else was awake, spending Christmas day alone one year, but making it a day I will always fondly remember. Every Christmas there is always something, along with an awareness that Jesus is right beside me. All it takes are open hands and an open heart, and he will surprise us in ways that we will say, “it had to be him.”
“At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire.”… [GNB]
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 …And everyone went to their own town to register.” [NIV] Luke 2:1
Luke sets his account of the birth of Jesus in context of the everyone traveling back to their ancestral towns for the purpose of being registered government census taking. Caesar’s word calls people back to their roots.
Ever made such a trip yourself? I did something like that once when I took my mother on a trip back to some of the places her grandfather had lived and to look a bit at the route he took to travel with 3 family members to Texas after the Civil War ended. His side had lost, and the family farm in Mississippi had been burned in the war. We wondered about what he’d have felt on that trip. Physically it might not have been much easier than the one Joseph and Mary, with her swollen belly, would have made.
Pappy (Everyone called my great-grandfather Pappy) was guiding the trip to East Texas mostly on foot since the only vehicle they had was a lopsided farm wagon pulled by a milk cow. Plenty of time to think about what it meant that they were leaving the land where he had grown up to go to a new land they’d never seen.
Over the years the story of that trip was told and retold, and the only way that trip made sense was to tell it as an adventure with promise. In the new land he found a wife, raised a family, and came to accept that some of the values of the old land needed to be surrendered. I think he died a happy man.
He wouldn’t have made the trip except that things beyond himself had forced the issue. On that later trip with my mom, we talked about how Pappy’s adventurous voyage had impacted our lives, how glad we were he made the journey.
The adventure of that trip for Joseph and Mary must have been retold a lot of times too. Each time, what a wonder that it really changed the world, not just their world, but ours. A difficult journey for them, a miracle for everyone!