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It’s Christmas again. Another Christmas has arrived.
Since October and November, we have seen stores put up their Christmas displays and begin their Christmas promotion starting with Black Friday.
As you know so well, we’re encouraged to buy our way to Christmas bliss. Those who can, often do. Our children have to have the latest electronic gadgets and adults the biggest television sets and the latest DVDs. Those who cannot, do their very best to make them and their families happy as they can, though they may still feel left out of Christmas.
For the vast majority of people this is the one big time of the year to reward yourself with what you’ve been eyeing for a while.
Emotionally, too, we overload Christmas. Many people place a ton of hopes on this one holiday. We have in our minds an idealized version of a “perfect” family evening and day, when we get to experience the perfect moments and meals and meaning, where there will be no arguments, no bad feelings—just happiness and harmony for all.
Many times we pull it off.
But the truth is that’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves and loved ones for one holy day.
I wish I could tell you I’m one of those wise people who doesn’t fall prey to this overloading phenomenon. If I did, I’d be lying, right here on Christmas Eve in church. I’m not going to do that.
I can tell you that I often push for less spending on Christmas presents than my much better half, Marit.
And you might think that makes me better. But I’ll tell you what, when we’re wrapping presents—many times after the 8 p.m. Christmas Eve service—I’m the one who’s anxious and worrying whether or not we have enough. On early Christmas morning I suffer what isn’t often talked about: Non-buyer’s remorse!
Somehow everything seems to work out. (Santa is an obvious big help.)
But adding up all these things, it’s easy to see why we end up feeling some sense of disappointment or let down when our experience doesn’t live up to the hype we’ve hyped for Christmas.
What was the Facebook comment I saw recently: The best way to avoid all the Christmas stress is to be Jewish.
Perhaps the scripture, Isaiah 9:2, that says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” refers to us. Maybe we’re walking around a little bit in the dark of how this thing is supposed to go.
Truly one of the Bible’s most hopeful and colorful passages is tonight’s: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
The story begins with a pregnant woman and her caring husband looking for a place for her to give birth to her first born. But there is no room, no place for this outcast family, no place for our temporary refugee family.
But that’s where the Christ Child was born. That’s when our Christian faith says it all began, where God shone his light, where the good news of great joy for you occurred, where God’s eternal plan and the mystery of the divine will came to life, where Mary brought forth the holy child and the Bethlehem babe breathed his first breath.
What we hear is Jesus was born where people needed him most. The babe of Bethlehem is born forever where people need him most.
The truth is no matter where we sleep, no matter how good we’ve got it or bad we’ve made things, we need something that we can’t get easily. We can’t get it easily simply because it can’t be bought or paid for and it can’t be given to us by someone else, no matter how much they love us.
What we need most is a possibility we haven’t lived yet—no matter where you live; a goodness not quite reached yet—no matter how good or bad you’ve been; a newness not quite attained yet—no matter what age you are; a forgiveness not quite experienced yet—no matter how remote that seems possible.
What we need most is a relationship, a connection, to the One who sits in the middle of the mystery and magic of life itself and our lives in particular, who came to life and was laid in a manger because there was no room for him or his family in the inn.
On Christmas again, we are offered the chance to embrace the gift of God born in the babe of Bethlehem.
What Christmas tells us is we are more than meets the eye because that baby was more than met the eye. Christmas tells us the skies have more in them than we can see because there are angels floating in them sometimes.
Christmas tells us is we are gift-bringers, like the wise men; we are good news hearers and rejoicers, like the shepherds; and we are holy people, the one to whom God gave the gift of his own holiness, his very precious beloved one.
It’s the present nobody can pay for or buy or give. It’s the gift of God’s own love for you, for the stranger, for the refugee, for the doubter, for the hurting, for the successful, for the open-hearted, for the blessed.
It’s the gift we need more than for one day or night a year.
It’s yours to unwrap, open up, and keep every day, for all time.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, again.