Bumping into Christmas
I’ve done this 65 times, so you’d think I would be proficient by now. For 65 years I have celebrated the Christmas season. Granted, the first few times, I was pretty much unaware. But it didn’t take me long to figure out that this season is special. There were dazzling lights and festive songs, stories and secrets, gifts and goosebumps. A tree was planted in our living room! So early in my toddling years, I discovered the wonder of Christmas. Every Christmas has carried the wonder of Jesus, but it hasn’t always been easy. In fact, some years are a struggle. My challenge is simply this. Sometimes I find Christmas. Sometimes Christmas has to find me.
Often I am looking for Christmas. I am sparked by the calendar and prompted with the coming of Advent. I have the usual routine of putting up lights and creating a gift list. But since I shepherd a flock, there’s congregational preaching and programming to set in place and I’ve done it for 45 years. The narrative of Christmas doesn’t change, so I ask myself, “How many fresh ways can I squeeze this story?” That’s why I chase Christmas. I pursue the qualities of the season, the fruit of Yuletide. Looking for joy. Hunting for hope. Pursuing peace. Reaching for the nearness of Emmanuel. Of course those are worthy pursuits anytime, but Christmas presents a unique challenge because, “What is Christmas without them?” But these gifts can be elusive. If I am the only pastor you’ve heard say this, let me whisper a truth. The season doesn’t always sync with my soul. “Joy to the World” is not always sung from a happy heart. The prayer for peace on earth, can be uttered from a troubled spirit. So I chase Christmas. Like Magi on a quest, I look for Jesus. In mercy, God is gracious to my probing. In ways that I can’t predict, by stars set by Him, Christmas is found. That’s the way of the Magi. But there is another path. The way of the shepherds.
In my nightfall, when I am too befuddled or fatigued to explore the riches of the Nativity, God extends His Hand. In a song, a memory, a Scripture or kindness from both family and friend, God shows up. He arrives even when I am not looking. If I am not mistaken, this year, especially this year, we need God to come to us. We can’t perform the rituals of our normal Christmas customs. The traditions we employ to find joy of the season are removed from us. We wonder how Christmas will be. Can it be Christmas? But the Bethlehem story is clear. God reaches to earth. He came to find us. He comes to find us. Today, more than others, that is our prayer. Let Christmas come. Whether He is found by our hungry spirits or we are lifted to His heart of mercy; joy, peace, love and grace - these are ours. Because every year, every day, in every way, Christmas comes. Christ comes.