How many Christmases do you celebrate? Growing up there were at least 2 Christmas celebrations in my household – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was all about the worship service and an evening with close family and friends. Christmas Day was for the presents, feasting and having fun.
Through the years, I have found ways to make Christmas last for weeks, usually starting somewhere in the middle of December and going through Epiphany. Twelve days of Christmas? Pshaw!
That we need more than one day to celebrate Christmas makes sense to me. How do you capture all that the birth of the Christ child means in just one day? How can you express the significance, the emotions, the questions and even the seeming contradictions of this incredible birth in just one event?
And there is another reason why I find the need for more than one Christmas celebration, which is especially true for me this year. Many of the public and commercial celebrations at best only scratch at the surface of the meaning of Christmas and at their worst seem to focus on all the wrong things.
There are the Mall Santa Clauses and the Christmas Tree lighting festivals (or in some places monument lightings), company parties filled with loud music and people shouting with joy. Festive gatherings where everyone is happy and laughing. These types of celebrations invite you to be gregarious and silly. They are certainly fun but there is no room at these celebrations for sorrow and grief lest you be met with “bah humbug” or “Don’t be a Grinch.”
What if we don’t feel like that kind of celebration? What if the sorrow and the grief of this past year, the lives lost, the pain and suffering, weariness and disappointments, the disruption and isolation is just too much to be jolly?
Christmas is for such a time as this. Remember? God so loved the world… God sends us Jesus, not to celebrate all that is right but because God sees a hurting and broken world. The power of Christmas, the promise and hope that we find in the birth of that little baby is not in spite of the world’s problems, but because of them. God doesn’t look at us through rose colored glasses. God sees us for who we are and how we are. And unlike Santa Claus making his lists of who is naughty and nice, God loves us no matter what. God loves us so much as to want to draw near to us. God loves us so much that she wants to wrap her loving arms around us and hold us tight. God loves us so much as to keep trying again, and again, and again, to reach us. No matter how many times we turn God away, saying there is no room at the Inn, God does not give up on us. Like the small rays of light from a candle shining into the darkness, God breaks through.
There may not be many big and loud festive celebrations this year, but that’s o.k. And for all those pastors and worship leaders who are worried if your Christmas Eve worship service will be special enough without all the choirs, and processions, and pageantry. It won’t be the same and that’s o.k. too. Because this wondrous and holy night that we honor on December 24th holds more promise and more love than any one event can ever express. And yet God chose to come to us as a small helpless baby, born of a mother with no social standing in a country with no political power.
And as Zechariah prophesied so long ago, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
On behalf of the Presbytery of Baltimore staff, may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones. And we look forward to discovering God’s promise for us in 2021 together.
– Susan Krehbiel, Social Justice Consultant