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The Wait is Over
I am sure each of you all has your traditions that you have to do or else it is not Christmas. Maybe it is a song. It is not Christmas until you hear Bing Crosby sing White Christmas or Andy Williams’ Happy Holidays. Maybe it is not Christmas until you see Charlie Brown’s Christmas on TV, or It’s A Wonderful Life, The Grinch who Stole Christmas, or the Christmas Story. Maybe it is not Christmas until you bake those cookies using your great grandmother’s recipe. Maybe it is not Christmas until you watch old videos and see how everyone has changed throughout the years.
For me it is the service. I love the late evening Christmas Eve service with communion and candlelight. There is something special that happens here, in the quiet of the night. I love even more to do this service at 11:00 pm. There is something unique about gathering late in the evening, walking in on Christmas Eve and out on Christmas Morn. But with a child waiting on Christmas at home, 9:00 is close enough. I think it is special because it is the last step in a journey that started five weeks ago.
After the Thanksgiving turkey was laid to rest, or we were laid to rest after the turkey, which ever, we started to prepare for Christmas’ coming. We started to decorate, write cards, make phone calls, sing carols, bake cookies, go to parties, or create little animal hats for kids to wear during a Christmas Pageant. Five weeks ago the lists hit the table and like it or not Christmas is a few minutes away. So what happens if the list isn’t finished? What happens if you did not do the tradition that makes it feel like Christmas? Christmas is coming!
Alycia and I started to prepare for Christmas like the rest of you. We started to make our lists about what we will buy for whom. We journeyed up to the North Carolina mountains to cut down our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Our Christmas cards were mailed out a week and a half later. We started early because these past two weeks have been completely full of parties, pageants, and cantatas. Yet, because I had a few minutes here and there to sit back and enjoy our Christmas Tree next to the glow of our television, I got intrigued by the debate that seemed to fester each year about war on Christmas.
There were debates about what the most politically correct phrase we were to use during this month. Should it be Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or my favorite, “I hope you have a joyful Christmakka or Hanahmus.” Then I had someone come up to me and say “Merry Christmas, you know you have to say that three times every time someone says Happy Holidays because takes the nails out of Jesus.” So this got me thinking, can we really stop Christmas from coming if we are forever banded from saying Merry Christmas at places like Wal-Mart or Target? How can we truly worship the “god of retail” at these stores if we cannot say Merry Christmas? Yet in the midst of this heated debate and WAR on Christmas, Christmas is coming!
It always seems Christmas comes with some sort of controversy, some sort of scandal. Just go back to the first Christmas. Mary and Joseph headed down to Bethlehem, Joseph’s hometown to be registered for the censes. That seems normal enough right…but we forget some facts. Mary and Joseph aren’t married yet. They are still engaged and she is 9 month’s pregnant. On top of that the baby isn’t his! You know there was some talk around the water well about this couple. Mary turns up pregnant while being engaged, saying that she still is a virgin and this is God’s baby and Joseph goes along with it. This is crazy!
Then when this dysfunctional family gets to the busy city, they have to stay the night in a barn, with animals. It is there, in the midst of animal food and, well, processed food that Mary has her child. And who comes to visit that night, famous celebrities? Royalty? Politicians? Nope, shepherds, Bethlehem’s truck drivers and construction workers. These blue collar, dirty, smelly guys show up because angles tell them a special baby was born. There is the true living nativity; a dysfunctional family in a barn with animals being visited by smelly guys who watch sheep for a living.
Yet in this picture of scandal and intrigue, comes the story of faithfulness and a promise fulfilled. In the midst of all this mess, Jesus Christ, the Son of God was born and wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The Lord of Lords entered the world to change it forever. The King of Kings laid his head down that day in a bed of wood, only to 33 years later would be nailed to wood again. In that moment, in the middle of controversy, faithfulness, scandal, and hope, Christmas came.
What we need to realize is that tonight, in the quiet of this sanctuary and in the peacefulness of the cool air outside, Christmas comes. God entered the world and found himself in the same place that we are, a place where hopes and dreams collide with dysfunction and disappointment. He did not enter the world in a palace or mansion but a humble stable. The all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God entered the world as one of us. He could have come as a powerful voice from heaven, striking us down in our contempt. However, he chooses to love us so much to become just like us and save us from ourselves.
Christmas is not about our traditions. It is not about a White Christmas or Charlie Brown. It is not about cookies or trees. It is not about what phrase we use to greet one another or how many presents we open up tomorrow. Christmas is bigger than all that. Christmas is about this moment right now, when we finish a journey of preparation and being a time of celebration. For the true meaning of Christmas comes to us today in our hearts. It comes when you realize that God became just like you, went through everything you are going through, and did this all because he loves you. Tonight we come here to meet this baby upon the altar. We come and communion with this God-man that was born this night.
Celebrate tonight for the true meaning of Christmas. Forget everything that is happening tomorrow and be in this moment right now. Don’t worry about Santa, tomorrow’s meal, or how many people you will see. Clear your head of all that, the wait is over and Christmas is here. Please stand now as the story of the first Christmas is read…