Part of me prefers to keep lights used to welcome Christmas up and lit the entire year, for once we welcome the light of Christ into our lives, that light should always shine. Thus keeping Christmas lights up and lit would show that Christ remains alive in our hearts. Lights adorning a home would boldly announce the presence of a disciple of Christ, someone who would welcome a stranger.
Imagine entire communities striving to live every day of every year, shining the light of Christ in how they live as brightly as a yard full of Christmas trees.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
— Matthew 25:34-36 (NRSV)
On the other hand, we need a time between holidays, ordinary time in the jargon of the Church liturgy, so that the holidays are indeed special times. For people, like the flowers of the field, fade and need fresh reminders of the glory of Christ’s light.
Thus again this Christmas eve I hope and pray that after lighting candles together at midnight we will carefully carry not merely lit candles home, but we will carefully carry the light of Christ out into our communities, reminding one another of the best of what the Kingdom of God calls us to do and to be.
How do you remind yourself throughout the year of the light of Christ?
Once again our Christmas tree has a few fragile ornaments on it. At one time, many years ago,we would have decorated our tree almost exclusively with fragile glass ornaments. But when our children arrived and began playing around our decorated tree, we gradually replaced the glass ornaments with more durable decorations, ones made of cloth, wood or metal. Now only one fragile ornament has survived from our years before children.
Many of the ornaments now on our tree tell a story about when we acquired them or who had crafted them making them far more endearing than the metal coated glass balls we once had.
Years before Lori and I had our first Christmas tree, my mother would caution my siblings and I especially when we handled a particular fragile glass golden heart that had been my mother’s favorite. Each December she would carefully hang it on an inner branch high above where little fingers might reach and each January we would carefully wrap and stow it away. I am confident that it held for my mother a story more precious than it looked.
We know the story of the shepherds and magi honoring Jesus birth because his mother Mary shared the treasure that she held in her heart.
What stories do your favorite ornaments tell? How will you share this treasure with your family?
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
– Luke 2:19 (NRSV)
Yes, I realize that the social question –Are you ready for Christmas?– merely inquires about decorations, parties, and presents. This question merely opens an opportunity about finding the perfect present for one’s spouse, hiding long sought for games from increasingly inquisitive children, and putting up a display that rivals one’s neighbors. A time to ask: “Would so and so understand a gift of fish that might help build God’s kingdom?”
Yes, I am ready for the rush of worship services that involve children and adults who do not normally participate in worship. For that annual flurry of religious excitement and renewal the planning and writing and recruiting began weeks ago and is now largely in place. Although these events will produce anxieties up until all the candles are extinguished.
But no, I am not ready, at least not on a personal level. Mary’s unplanned pregnancy had troubled her and it had troubled Joseph. News of Jesus’ birth had troubled Herod and all Jerusalem with him, compelling this new family to relocate to a foreign land. The birth of Christ should trouble us unless we are unaware of its significance, like the magi, or have nothing left to lose, like the shepherds. It is like the line in a movie when the bad guy says: “Prepare to meet your Maker!” Or when the final exam proctor says: “Pencils down. Close your test booklets.” Thus the glitter and pageantry distract me from the reason for the season and interfere with making time to ponder: “Where is Christ in all this?”
So, no, I am not ready. I am troubled that God has much service for me to do before I will be ready to sing with Simeon:
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” – Luke 2:30-32 (NRSV)