“What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little more?”
Do you recognize the question? Remember who said it? In which book? The author?
How different this Christmas is going to be… without many of the trappings of Christmas as we know it. Many of our cherished traditions are going to be laid low by the COVID precautions. Will we find alternatives and work-arounds? Will new traditions rise to fill what is missing. Will the whole contemporary equilibrium of Christmas sacred and secular be upset and recalibrated?
At Old First, we try each Christmas to call attention to the deeper religious meanings of the holiday over against its more secular interpretations. All those creche animals were out front to make sure the story of baby Jesus got told alongside of Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, It’s a Wonderful Life and Frosty the Snowman.
The pandemic won’t stop the classic Christmas movies, but caroling probably won’t be much of a thing this season. And a lot of other cherished Christmas traditions and activities are going to be cancelled.
Now Old First isn’t the kind of church that sees secular Christmas traditions of as its sworn enemies or its “death-match” competition. We know an incarnate God can be found everywhere in the world. We understand why and think it’s fine if your seasonal greeting is “Happy Holidays!”
But this year, we are offering more by way of our Christmas practice and celebration. (There’s an instruction page in your Advent / Christmas box!)
Without all the Christmas parties, maybe you will try nightly Advent Candle Lighting paired with a church-wide Advent calendar. Or maybe you want to join us for our new Thursday Evening Advent Services. Or, an old favorite: get on zoom early on Advent Sundays for Bob Robinson’s Bible Study of the texts that prophesy Jesus’ birth.
It’s been a hard year with a lot to handle. (That’s an understatement!) Even Christmas will be affected. But I have faith that a Christmas without all the fixings can still be Christmas. Good news of great joy for all people — for in the city of David, a Savior has been born to us; he is Christ the Lord.
What if in the greater calm and quiet of this unusual Christmas, maybe even the dark emptiness left by the Christmas things we cannot do (sort of like the night fields where the shepherds were residing, keeping watch over their flocks?) … what if with less, we actually experience the glory of the Lord shining around us more?
The Grinch, enemy of all the Christmas joy he could hear down in Whoville, came up with a wicked scheme: he’d take all the Who’s Christmas presents, trees and decorations and festive food… he meant to steal their Christmas. But it didn’t work out quite like that.
Once he was back up on Mt. Crumpit with his holy, stolen haul, about to dump it into the abyss, Christmas dawn broke, and, incredibly, he heard the Whos down in Whoville gather to raise their joyous Christmas song nonetheless.
The Grinch’s heart suddenly grew 3 times larger, as he thought of something he hadn’t thought of before:
What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store?
What if Christmas means a little more?
It’ll be a different Christmas to be sure, but aren’t we a church community that knows well there is blessing to be found in difference?
Merry, merry, loved ones, and, really, a whole, holy New Year,