Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries
So here we are. It’s almost Christmas Day.
Most of us have spent the last several weeks getting ready.
Maybe this year you purchased a real tree and spent time setting it up and decorating it.
Perhaps you are like others and retrieved the one kept in the box and set it up and decorated it.
We’ve bought gifts and wrapped them.
Well, Heather bought our gifts and wrapped them. I just signed the cards. She is much better at the gift thing.
Did you attend or host a holiday party?
Did the family gather and celebrate early?
Did you send your cards and letters out far and wide?
These are all wonderful things to do with your family and friends.
Soon, we will gather in familiar places with familiar faces and celebrate with family, friends and neighbors.
Together, we will sing the familiar carols, we will light and hold our candles, and we will retell that age old story.
Silent night, holy night,
wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!
It will be beautiful. I hope you take time to take it all in.
But here’s the thing.
For all our preparation and for all the beauty around us, I can’t help but wonder if there is something more.
Something we miss in all our planning and preparation. All our decorations and gift giving.
So much of what we spend time and energy and money on has little to do with that simple, yet provocative, age-old story we read together each year.
A story so familiar we almost know it by heart.
A story about Mary and Joseph, a relationship filled with hardship from the get-go.
Difficult decisions to be made against traditions that point them in opposite directions.
A story about shepherds in a field. And Angels from the realms of glory.
A story so layered by tradition and Christmas card images, so softened by our focus on glowing candles that its meaning and challenge get lost in the grandeur of our celebrations.
We know the story, but maybe we miss the struggle and tension that truly make it wonderful and miraculous. The parts we don’t put in Christmas cards to family and friends.
Things like the stark contrast between the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus and Jesus, the Son of God … born in Bethlehem … laid in a manger.
Or King Herod, sitting on his throne in the palace, threatened by the prospect of a new king.
Or the harrowing story of Mary and Joseph making their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
And the Roman legions who patrolled the streets and countryside ‘imposing’ their peace.
Meanwhile, the heavenly host sings a proclamation of peace on Earth, good will to all.
As we hear the story, we are left to ask ourselves …
What is this story really trying to say?
Which side of the story will we choose as our own to guide and direct our living?
What does all this mean for us today?
What does all this mean for you today … with the world as it is and your life as it is?
If there’s something in this story about peace on Earth that weaves itself around some deep longing within you …
if there’s something in this story about everyone, not just the rich and powerful, having a place …
and if there’s something that brings into focus how you imagine life and this world might be, should be …
… then how are you getting ready for that kind of Christmas?
There’s something in this story about God with us that rings true for me … that tugs at my spirit.
God with us. Not over us. Not judging or condemning us.
God with us in this wonderful, complex, sorrowful, joyful thing we call life.
God with you and me. With us and them.
God here. God now.
Just as you are. Just as we are. Just as they are.
The cards and gifts, the trees and parties, the time spent with family and friends are important, and those memories can last a lifetime.
But remember the story. The whole story.
Christmas Day is almost here.
I pray that all of us can prepare for that kind of Christmas.
Are you ready?