WITHOUT JESUS 12-22-19
December 22, 2019
What is Christmas without Christ? It is not a mass, but a mess. A mess of frazzled shoppers, desperately trying to buy the perfect present for everyone on their list. Spending money they don’t have, racking up debt they hope to pay off in the year to come. A mess at the checkout counters, where people push and shove, and impatiently stare at the poor soul who is counting the minutes as she rings up one gift after another, wondering when and how she is going to get her own shopping done. A mess of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, name tags, and tape that transform those purchases into beautifully decorated treasures after long hours of tedious work, but that will be torn apart in mere seconds, and then discarded into the trash. A mess of cards and envelopes that need to be signed, addressed, stamped, and mailed both to people you see every day, as well as those that you haven’t seen or even talked to at all in the previous year, but still remain on your Christmas card list. A mess of dragging out the stored away Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, and garlands, trying to figure out how to assemble them into something that would grace one of those Christmas cards. Needles on the carpet, lights that won’t light, ornaments that broke, and a star that refuses to shine. And don’t forget the big plastic Santa Claus with his big plastic smile, who by the time December 25th arrives you just want to kick in that big plump plastic belly. And a mess of memories, of bygone Christmases when loved ones who are no longer with us to celebrate come knocking on our door. Yes, Christmas without Christ is just a great big mess.
But Christmas WITH Christ is a celebration of the heart. It is not found in the stores or under the tree. It isn’t heard in the ‘ho, ho, ho’ of the Santa in every town or the Christmas carols played on every radio station since Black Friday. It isn’t dependent on the soft layer of white you wake up to find covering every branch and blade of grass. It is a peace amid the chaos all around, a joy that shines through the tears of grief, and a love far greater than even that of a parent watching their child on Christmas morn. It is the hope that was born in that stable in Bethlehem, the hope of eternal life with a God who created us out of love, redeemed us out of love, and then put that love in our hearts through His Spirit.
Christmas with Christ isn’t just about giving to those on our list, but giving to those who have been forgotten, those who are unloved, those whose spirits are broken. Christmas with Christ is about finding joy in unexpected places, about feeling God’s presence where others see only emptiness, and about forgiving those who have caused us pain. Christmas with Christ is seeing the light of the star even if the lights on the tree don’t work, and hearing the angels sing, even if the carolers are off key.
Remember poor Charlie Brown, frustrated after trying to direct a Christmas play and find a perfect tree, and feeling like a complete failure? He desperately cries, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” To which Linus replies, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them: ‘Fear not, for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.’ That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” And indeed it is, Linus.
Christmas without Christ isn’t Christmas. It may be a happy holiday or an unhappy holiday, but it isn’t Christmas. And so I pray that if the Christ child has not yet been born in your heart, may the words of Phillips Brooks become real for you – “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.” Amen.
“Full Christmas Canon Children’s Choir” (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIqwxp5Jmck&index=1&list=RDYIqwxp5Jmck
“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHioIlbnS_A