Please start by reading:
Let me ask you a simple question in this Christmas Season. How many times have you
heard the story that we just read from this gospel in Luke?
How many times have you
heard the story about the simple shepherds in the field watching over their flocks
at night, and suddenly in a starlit sky there comes the angel and the heavenly host
proclaiming good news to all of humanity, and the shepherds go and follow the directions
of the angels and they find Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus lying in the straw
surrounded by the silent, innocent benediction of the animals in the stable?
many times have you heard that story, and how many times have you seen it portrayed
on greeting cards around the Christmas season, in pictures that we see on television-every
Christmas-this wonderful, warm, loving image? Isn't it a lot like the swaddling clothes,
the bands of cloth that Jesus is described as being wrapped in?
Christmas is like
that for us. It is like streamers of warm and wonderful family memories of images
that we treasure and hold dear, that we wrap around ourselves every Christmas. It
keeps us warm in the winter. It makes us feel comforted and hopeful. It brings us
back to childhood - every Christmas, year after year after year.
You know, the truth
is no matter how avant-garde or forward thinking or progressive we may believe ourselves
to be as Christians, every Christmas we all turn into traditionalists. If you are
like me, you are, just as I am, an absolute sentimentalist whenever it comes to this
I don't want Christmas to ever change. I don't want to ever stop
hearing this story in Luke. I never want to stop seeing that image of the baby Jesus
in the manger. I want to feel that again and again and again. I am so nostalgic for
it. It is so comforting to me. I never ever, ever, want my Christmas to change.
then, somewhere in the distance I hear the small sound of a tinkling bell. It is
the bell of irony. And that small bell reminds me of the irony of our faith that
on the very feast of the nativity of Christ Jesus, when we so much want nothing to
ever change, we are, in fact, celebrating the great moment of change in human history.
We are, in fact, celebrating a moment when God enters into history and nothing is
ever the same after that.
Incarnation means change. It means God coming into our
time and into our space and into our lives and into our comfort zone and shaking
things up and making them be recreated in a new way and challenging us to confront
change and to be active in doing something, being co-creators with God in the world
Christmas is nothing but a constant celebration year after year after
year that no year is ever the same and that our lives are never the same and that
every year we are, in fact, older and, hopefully, wiser but still engaged with our
God, the God of history, in making things happen.
How ironic, how ironic, that on
a day when we want absolutely nothing to change we are, in fact, celebrating the
greatest change ever. Change is not something that we as Christians should fear.
Change is the nature of life. It is the nature of the church.
We must not take our
sentimentality for a Christmas season and extend it over the other 364 days of a
year to try and build walls of supposed tradition to hold back the change of our
creative God. We should not be fearful when the things that we do in the church and
the things that the church does in the world around it suddenly seem to be different.
We must not fear the new but be active agents of bringing the new as God brings the
new into the world every day, every week, every month, every year, and, yes, every
Christmas. Change is the name of the game through Christ Jesus.
So what do I suggest
that you do on this Christmas Season? What do I suggest that you do to celebrate
this wonderful moment of change in your life? I suggest that you wrap up in Christmas
like I'm going to do. That you once again enjoy those visions of angels and shepherds
and the manger and the baby in the straw and the animals and Mary and Joseph and
keep it exactly the way it's always been for you.
On Christmas Day, just for this
one day, let it be comforting and traditional. Let it be familiar and warm and loving.
There's time enough tomorrow for you and me to step out in our own incarnation and
once again pick up our gifts and go to work with God to face change and make change
for the glory of God's name.
But for Christmas Day, for this one special day, let
us relax into the peace that is holy and into a time where time itself seems to stand
still and the winds and tides of change are held back with the sounds of angelic
voices drifting through a starry, cold night.
Almighty God of change, God of what
is new and what is coming to be, we want to be your partners, we want to be your
co-creators, in the world around us. But on this day, we want to rest with you in
that timeless moment of your nativity in the mystery of your incarnation. Let your
Spirit so comfort us today, so wrap us up in the swaddling clothes of your truth
and compassion and mercy that we rest gently in your arms as a baby lying in a manger
and know that there is time enough tomorrow for us to join you in changing the world.
A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you all