Today in the office’s annual holiday luncheon, which seems as good a point as any to reflect on the Christmas season just ended. There are still some forlorn decorations and goods for sale in the clearance rack at various retailers, testimony to dashed hopes and extravagant dreams.
As I’ve gotten older, Christmas has receded as a holiday. As a child, of course, Christmas is the major holiday of the year. It forms a colossal combination of birthday, Halloween, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving in one month-long package. It served as an open invitation to dream, greedily, of what to request of Santa. There was much excitement Christmas morning as the wrapping paper was carefully cut open, folded, and put aside, so we could tear into the contents. It was indeed a magical time.
But now, I’m not sure what to do with Christmas. It brings on an overburdened schedule, as every organization on earth seeks to hold an event to celebrate, which “demands” my attention. Concerts, plays, special services, parties, family gatherings, and still more parties. Then there are cookies to bake and cards to send. And of course, there are the decorations, inside and out. Were Christ to come again at this time, I think we would miss Him entirely, so great is our busyness.
What has any of this to do with Christ’s coming into the world? I round out this season feeling empty and uneasy. I can well relate to Charlie Brown. Lucy suggests that we need involvement, to give us that Christmas spirit, but it doesn’t work. I just feel more empty, and tired to boot.
What should I be feeling at Christmas? Joy? Peace? Hope? Love? Re-reading the Christmas stories in the Bible, I see wonder and anxiety. How does Mary explain her pregnancy to Joseph, to her family, to her community? What will Joseph do? How will he cope with the disruptions the blessed event causes? Will the child survive the threats against him? Who is this child, who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate, and was made man?
So perhaps my unease is not unreasonable. There should be a sort of ambiguity in our minds come Christmastide. For the wondrous gifts of Christmas come only through the Cross. The coming of the Christ Child will bring the rising and falling of many, even in our own lives.
Come, Lord Jesus.