Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas--Day #3

I hope each of you has experienced the power and beauty of Christmas. My moment came at a Christmas Eve service. My wife and I commented that this might be the first Christmas Eve service that we’ve enjoyed since having kids. The past few years I’ve felt less like a worshipper coming to the manger and more like a warden arriving at maximum security. In the past, the goal was finding a way not to ruin the experience for everyone else in attendance and somewhere around the third outburst, I would be questioning why I didn’t keep our three “Christmas angels” under lock and key at home and guarantee a successful outcome for the rest of the church. This year was different. Abe was a “greeter” with me, welcoming those arriving in the sanctuary. Pete and Jake each played a Christmas carol on the piano with their piano teacher/mother as part of the prelude. And I watched as each one was engaged in his own way throughout the service. And as the service closed with a candle lit “Silent Night,” I was moved to tears and not because one of my children burned down the church. But as the pastor lit his candle from the Christ Candle, which we’ve been waiting for all of Advent, I saw the wonder shining on each child’s face as they watched the Light of Christ spread among the darkness of the congregation.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, Love’s pure light
Radiant Streams from Thy holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth! Jesus Lord at thy birth!

A good friend of mine encouraged me to actually read Dicken’s A Christmas Carol instead of just watching another version on television. And after reading it, the most poignant part that no movie I’ve seen fully captures is the sense of rapture in Ebenezer post ghostly epiphany. William James discusses in his Varieties of Religious Experience how for converts, the world is radically changed. It is as if they are seeing the world for the first time, or put another way, are actually living in a different world altogether. Once Ebenezer Scrooge understands what power, joy, and hope the birth of Christ can bring to the world generally and his life specifically, he enters a world of wonder and opportunity.

We often bemoan the commercialization of the Christmas holiday and the busy-ness and bustle. We often burn out before the day actually arrives. In America, we in the church have in many ways lost Christmas to the malls. A perfect example of this is the post-Christmas let down. On December 26th, we have the sense that it is over for another year. Nothing could be further from the truth! In the West, Christmas proper has historically been a 12-day feast, beginning on the 25th and running until Epiphany on January 5. In the Church calendar, there are five Sundays of Christmas. How long is too long to celebrate the Incarnation?! But in a consumer driven culture that runs on how much we spend and what we buy, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and stops when the stores close on Christmas day. Sadly, once the stores have nothing left to market, we Christians fall into the same trap, as if we have nothing left to celebrate!

So let me encourage and challenge you. Today is Christmas Day 3—celebrate it accordingly! You have nothing left to buy, no holiday tasks left to do. Just celebrate! Christ’s birth has changed all reality. A personal God became human to engage us in a relationship that caused even angels to sing! How do we celebrate accordingly? I don’t truly know. Everything seems understated in comparison to an event so significant. Find the power, joy, and hope that Ebenezer found all around him. Where can I see the Light of Christ today? Create traditions in your family that continue your celebration of the Savior’s birth. For the next twelve days, every dinner together around our table, we light the Christ Candle in the middle of our advent wreath. We also try to spend time with friends and family that sadly we don’t always find time for during the year. May the Festival of Christmas restore our body, mind, and spirit! May it restore our relationships! May it restore our churches and our communities! May it restore our world!

Joy to the world, the Lord is Come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
Let Heaven and Nature sing!
Let Heaven and Nature sing!
Let Heaven and Nature sing!

No comments:

Post a Comment