“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”
After the snowfall this past weekend, you just can’t miss it. Christmas is on the horizon!
Actually, you should have been able to see it anyway. The stores are decked out in holiday style, the music is everywhere, and the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in force. Christmas is here! Not to stay, of course, but for the next few weeks, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year!”
That means, of course, that it’s time to dust off the “Christmas spirit.” We live a bit differently, smile a little more, and rekindle our hope in our world and our future, for a while, anyway. And it works well for us, with New Year’s just beyond – the future beckons, and for a short while we can feel good and even have a wee bit of confidence.
So, enjoy it – enjoy it while it lasts, bask in the warmth and wonder, and soak it all in.
And then get ready – ready to embrace the new year, moving forward with confidence because, hey, 2019’s got to be better, right?
But that’s yet to come – four weeks to go for that. For now, it’s the Christmas prep hustle, in the midst of ever shorter days, and probably more snow and ice too.
Oops…forgot about that – snow and ice!
Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The white brightens our world, and adds that little bit of nostalgia as we think “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” After all, aren’t we all “dreaming of a white Christmas?”
Until you slip on the ice, and head to the ground. And remember, its not the fall that is particularly painful, it’s the sudden deceleration when you and the ground collide!
So, there you go – it’s looking a lot like Christmas, until the ice well hidden under the snow takes you down. Then it’s just another painful moment in the journey of a cold and dark winter.
But it is Christmas, right? That’s worth something, isn’t it? Sure it is. It really is. For another 21 days. And maybe a few more days after that. But then…then wrapping paper gets tossed, the cookies are reduced to mere crumbs, the music begins to get really old, the tree comes down, and the decorations are packed away.
As we turn the calendar to 2019, what’s left? Maybe a few pine needles in the carpet, a few too many extra pounds to lose, and a bigger credit card bill to pay. And the snow and ice.
Like I said, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”
Now, don’t think I’m some kind of Scrooge…it’s December 4, and I have my Christmas shopping all done. How about you? I’ve got Christmas music playing, I just finished writing a drama about Christmas for worship on December 12, we ordered Christmas bulletin covers today, and now we are beginning to think through Christmas Eve/Day worship and sermons. We are immersed in Christmas!
And after all that, I’m really looking forward to worship on Christmas Eve. Yes, the music and decorations, the candlelight and carols, they all make for a wondrous, almost magical evening. Most of all, I’m looking forward to proclaiming the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ birth, and doing that in the midst of God’s people. Because in the end it’s the excitement and energy of the people of God who gather together around the manger that make the evening special. It’s Jesus – and you – that’s what I look forward too!
So, see, I am not a Scrooge!
But I am a realist. And I know that as wondrous as the season is, there is ice just under the gentle snowfall. Ice just waiting to take me down.
And I know that I can’t stop the clock. The season will end, and 2019, with all it promises – and threatens – is headed this way, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
In the midst of this time of wonder, I continue to find reasons – lots of them – for fear and uncertainty. From global tensions and conflicts, to the issues that challenge us right here in our own village. From the brokenness of the people around me, to my own moments of failure and vulnerability. From the things I know, to the things I don’t know, to the things I cannot share with others. All around, lots of “ice” under the snow, and unlike Christmas, this stuff doesn’t get packed away. This stuff, and even more, follows me right into 2019, even as Christmas gets left behind.
So, what to do? Ponder for a moment the magic of the “Eve” and “Day” that follows. Yes, music and decorations, candlelight and carols will make for a wonderful night and morning. None of that, however, will last. Like all the rest of the Christmas experience, it will embrace and fill us, but only for a moment. Then, when the moment is passed, it will all be packed away until next year.
But the story – remember the story? The simple story of something far from simple. The story of God breaking into our world. A story that begins with an ordinary looking child, born of a poor woman, lying in a the midst of a dirty barn. A child who is more than a child, but is revealed to be God’s presence in the midst of our cold, dark, broken world. And a child who in the fullness of time will act through the cross and the tomb to restore all of creation to the God who dearly loves it.
Yet this is also a story that speaks to us even today. In the child God’s work is not limited to a corner of the world 2000 years ago. The power and presence of the child turned Savior continues to break through the cold and ice, failure and brokenness even today.
But there is more to the story – we do not hear this story in a vacuum. We hear it in the midst of community, in the midst of others who are also broken, vulnerable, and frightened. Together we are embraced by the God who has sent the child. Together we are renewed and restored by the child’s work on the cross and empty tomb. Together we share with each other the hope and confidence we have in the child. And together we proclaim to a cold, dark, and broken world all that God has done – and continues to do – for creation.
So there it is. With three weeks to go, the snow and ice abound, the darkness grows, and sometimes the hope wanes just a bit. But I see the light – I see the star in the distance, hovering over the manger. And I know the child is there, waiting for me. Waiting to share the story, and to gather again the community of the faithful around me. Waiting to move us all forward into a new year. A year that will be blessed, not by luck or good fortune, but by God’s presence with us through the child who becomes our Savior.
And that is the best gift of all!