I love this time of the year. I don’t love the stores and malls and other places where people pack together to fight over sale items, or yell at their children as patience and dollars run out. I don’t love the radio stations that play back to back to back Christmas songs with all the mixed messages—“Joy to the World!” followed by “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” No, these are not the things I love. I love going to church…and today did not disappoint.
As we began the time of worship together, I looked down at the bulletin and saw those words we often see and hear this time of year around God’s people—“Jesus is the Reason for the Season!” And, frankly, in this first Christmas living in the US after having lived almost seven years in Latin America, I have seen how much Christmas has become so commercialized, even de-Christianized. We hear it in the tepid and tasteless “Happy Holidays!” as we enter Wal-Mart. The quiet rebel in me responds quite purposefully, “Thank you…and Merry Christmas.” As the real meaning of Christmas seems to slip away, the Church and the Christians have responded with the rallying cry of, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season!”
Okay, but what does THAT really mean?? What do we really mean when we say that Jesus is the reason for the season? When I think of ALL that Jesus embodies…well, it can be overwhelming. In Jesus Christ we find forgiveness, salvation, a family of faith (the Church), purpose and direction for our lives and so much more. Yet, while all of these things are true, important and crucial…these are not what Christmas is about…just like the Second Coming is not what Easter is about.
As I sat in worship this morning, the choir sang songs of the birth…the Nativity. The alter candles and the Advent candles burned brightly…the poinsettias with their deep red fairly burned around the chancel…the Chrismon Tree decorations sparkled and glinted in the lights of the sanctuary. We heard readings from the Prophets concerning the Coming One. We all lifted our voices together remembering that night so long ago. As I sat, stood, watched, listened, sang and meditated, it came to me yet again, that simple something that I must be reminded of year after year after year…. “And they will call him Immanuel--which means, ‘God with us’” (Matt.1:23)
Yes! That is the difference, that is what is important about Christmas—God is with us. He not only creates us, not only loves us, is not merely among us…He is WITH us…with you and with me. This is the message of Christmas…this is the Reason for the Season. The Creator steps into His own creation…and reality, life, existence is forever changed. God in Christ is now among us, with us, walking by our side, sitting down and rising up with us. No longer do I have to be alone; no longer do I have to be lonely. No longer do I face fears or disappointments or tragic loss alone. I do not live alone…and I will not die alone. God is with us…and has been with us since that night so long ago.
As the service came to a close, I walked out with my family, I walked out with my extended family of faith, I walked out in peace— sure of God’s forgiveness and certain of a life-unending, sure of my purpose and direction in life. However, more importantly and making all of these possible, I walked out with God…God in my life, God in my family, God in my community, God in my world! Yes, indeed, there is reason to celebrate Christmas…and the coming of Jesus IS the reason for the season!
Merry Christmas—God is with Us!