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!
“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12
Advent and the scripture readings that accompany it present us with many images but none more predominant than the image of light. I think it is difficult to absorb the depth of the meaning of Jesus as our Light in this day and time without imagining earlier times when there was no light at the flip of a switch and the darkness of the short days of autumn made difficult or impossible the daily business of both households and communities. It has been easiest to know Jesus as my Light when in the hours before sunrise far from the light of large cities, I’ve found myself in total darkness – a truly awesome and potentially frightening encounter. And how welcome and beautiful has been the first break of daylight – the “light that dispels the darkness.”
In celebrating the coming of the light of Christ this Advent, I celebrate the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago, the light Jesus’ life and Good News gives my life and the lives of others today, and the vision I hold for the fulfillment of Christ’s Kingdom to come. I anticipate and celebrate love, hope and faith not just because of what Jesus did but also because of who Jesus is for me and for the world this moment – a Light in the darkness of disappointment, hurt, humiliation and loss and a Light of Anticipation for the time when “all things will be made new.”
Isaiah 9:6 “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Tears unexpectedly came to my eyes as I read these words aloud for a Christmas celebration at my church more than 20 years ago. I had read this passage many times realizing it was predicting Jesus’ birth,but I had not experienced the power of its reality for me. The names for Jesus have stayed with me. I used the names for Jesus as I journal-ed my prayers during a summer of being flat on back in bed with foot surgery.
Through the Holy Spirit Jesus became my Wonderful Counselor. Listening for God while reflecting on scripture, I was comforted. I discovered when circumstances turn out differently than expected, God is still present. God became powerful and everlasting for me. I experienced a sense of God parenting me not only in providing security as a father, but also with nurture and gentleness as a mother. Peace with endurance and joy was the result. During my summer recuperation my trust in God grew.
As I anticipate Christmas, celebrating Christ’s birth, the words “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace: form a foundation to begin waiting with excitement and eagerness.
Is there a scripture that sets the tone for your preparation for celebrating Christ’s birth?