“Have yourself a merry, little Christmas,” the classic secular song croons. Never before have these lyrics been so apropos. With the COVID-19 pandemic still spreading and getting everyone vaccinated is months away, gatherings with only a few in number are encouraged.
The celebration part may seem trickier. Why make merry at such an arduous time?
Another Christmas carol, “O, Holy Night,” offers a glimmer of why. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til He appears and the soul felt its worth! A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” Although written in the mid-1800s, adapted from a French poem and later translated into English, the words ring remarkably true for 2020. The cause of our hope, our redemption is born … and in a way that every person can relate to, that they themselves experienced, as an innocent, helpless baby.
Any new parents will share the thrill of joy the day they finally could hold their newborn. How much more this year do we all need a little Christmas, to remember that natural, innate thrill: not just for today, but for our whole soul’s life long.
Where do we place this hope then? In what do we wish and ask for? Rather, in whom do we trust? Who is our hope, our greatest peace in the midst of a maelstrom?
For each and every person who must choose and decide for themselves, is Jesus with whom I build my foundation, my life? Is He the one for whom I truly long? Is the coming of Emmanuel, Hebrew for “God with us,” a real desire in my heart?
This Christmas, it can be simple. We can savor a real and deeply spiritual Christmas. Jesus once born into the human history 2,000 years ago comes again to be born, anew in our souls. Poor, small and weak, He comes in the humblest human condition, a homeless baby. Imagine the joy, after weeks of bumpy, rough travel Mary must have felt finally seeing the promise she agreed to nine months earlier. Imagine the wonder of Joseph, weary, poor and faithful to hold the words of an angel in his arms. Imagine the surprise and delight of the smelly shepherds to be the first to hear this good news of the Messiah, and although often on the fringes of society, to be the first to hold the clean, fragile new Child. Imagine their wonder of why the King of Kings is placed in a feeding trough, where common cows and horses eat. And imagine Him today, coming again, looking for a home, a heart open to receive such love.
Jesus’ presence is what changes this dark, difficult year. We are not alone, isolated, left to ourselves. We are in fact remembered, known and loved. In the flesh, God comes to us, to our muck and mud, to our chaotic and cluttered lives. He is with us, Emmanuel. Here in the midst of this mess, He desires to love us and transform us.
Life, then, from the Christian perspective at Christmas, converts everything. Our hope is grounded in our relationship with the living Lord, not to be swayed by the latest headline. Our joy comes from deep within the living water, a well that will not go dry. Our trust is steadied on the One who made us, redeems us and renews us. We can well live and celebrate such a God.
Christmas is not just for one day then, over when the radio stops playing carols, but rather for a whole season. Our dull souls may sharpen and expand to take in such a gift of grace. They may adjust to this new reality. Celebrating well that God is not only transcendent but also immanent, we normally sing the “Gloria,” the very words of the choirs of angels announcing His birth, on all the days of the Christmas season. With Christ, our salvation has finally come.
In the incarnation, God is made flesh in Jesus and made manifest to all people of the whole world. All people of good will are called to baby Jesus and adore Him — the Scriptures reveal well the diversity and divine nature of people led to Christ, from the most overlooked shepherds to the astrologers from countries far from Israel.
This Christmas season, which begins, not ends, on Dec. 25, and extends through the baptism of Our Lord, we all have the opportunity to celebrate well this gift. We all have finally rest for our weary souls and the opportunity for peace, which the world does not understand. Will you welcome baby Jesus in?
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