As we sit now on Christmas day, enjoying the height of the season, and reflecting on all that has taken place; it’s been a wonderful season.
Whether you are a “let’s start listening to Christmas music on November 1st” or you are a “don’t you dare even say the word Christmas until December,” it’s been a wonderfully busy season. We’ve been dazzled by twinkling light displays. Some that are more traditional or classy, simply clear lights around the edge of the roof and along the picket fence out front. Others, amazingly wonderful in their tackiness of every blow-up Christmas decoration imaginable, and every colored light on every inch of the house completely decorated. (Personally, those are the ones my family enjoys visiting the most.) We’ve been awed by Christmas performances. Some, watching children or grandchildren sing holiday songs in school gymnasiums, all decked out in their best Christmas attire, while one student in the front row steals the show with their ever joyous and exuberant facial expressions and hand motions for “Up on the Housetop.” Others, almost brought to tears, listening to a living Christmas tree or a hand bell choir, helping to bring the spirit of Christmas alive through music and song. We’ve had pictures with Santa. We’ve see the Christmas elf move about the house getting into mischief while we sleep. And we’ve spent hours running from store to store, or even shopping online, searching for the perfect gift to say, thanks, we appreciate you, and we love you. It’s been a wonderful Christmas season!
So perhaps it’s now, as the hustle and bustle of the season, while reaching it’s culmination, is also slowing down a bit, that we have time to think and ponder the meaning of this special day. Perhaps it’s now, when many have a chance to take a day or two off of work, when children get to stay up a little later because there’s no school in the morning, when the last-minute frantic shopping for gifts and wrapping of gifts has ended; perhaps it’s now that we can slow down for just a moment and ponder, what has this all been about? What’s the meaning of Christmas?
Those answers could go in many different ways.
Our world has liturgically been trying to tell us it’s about shopping, materialism, and gifts. It starts long before Black Friday, and stretches to the very last moments of Christmas Eve, we “need” the perfect gift for our friends and relatives; or even for ourselves. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without gifts.
Or perhaps the world is saying it’s about busyness. Christmas parties and Christmas performances fill the calendar quickly, until there is no time left to even breathe. We, as families, rush from one activity to another, trying to make the most of the Christmas season. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without parties and performances.
Maybe the meaning is family. Getting together with relatives, sharing family traditions that date back generations, traveling for days to spend Christmas together. Family is a good thing, being together is a good thing. Christmas, just isn’t Christmas without family.
Still, as we meditate on Christmas day, enjoying a second cup of coffee while our children play with their new toys, perhaps we can find a meaning for Christmas in an unlikely place; the book of Titus.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy.” (Titus 3:4-5)
We could talk about the hope of Christmas, that in the coming of Jesus the world will be made right. We could talk of the upside-down nature of the story, God choosing the lowly and humble instead of the powerful and famous. We could talk of the disarming of power, how the true king is not Caesar or Herod, but a tiny baby born in relative obscurity. Those are all good stories; but the meaning is even simpler. God appeared, and in mercy saved us. God appeared, and salvation came. God appeared and our inheritance is now secure. And it’s all in God’s mercy. We didn’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We could never do enough righteous deeds. No, in mercy, God showed up and saved us. It’s simple and beautiful all at the same time.
And perhaps, this needs to be where our thoughts remain. Not on family, presents, or traditions, although all of those are good. No this is a love story; in God’s loving kindness God came near, and saved us. And this simple and beautiful story, when given the opportunity, breaks through everything else of importance in our lives. It breaks through our griefs and the brokenness of the world, and provides the good news we long to hear. When the goodness and loving kindness of God our savior appeared, God in mercy saved us.
Rest in that truth today.