24 days have passed. 24 long wintery, cold days are now gone. We have seen ice and snow, sunshine and rain. We have seen long lines and spent too much money. We have cooked for guests and welcomed their exits. We have decorated our homes, our trees, our cars, our yards, our sweaters, our hats, and anything else we can stick a light bulb or ornament on. We have done all this in 24 days. Those days have made us tired.
Tomorrow, for some the Christmas season will come to a close. For others it will only have begun. Tonight, some are dashing around busy trying to get everything perfect for the big day. Others are sitting in the quiet…waiting…watching. There are two different ideas out there about the season we have just walked through. For the Christian, Advent is about preparation, actively waiting, and getting rid of the clutter to welcome the gift of this night. For others, this has been a long 24 days in December. It has been full of too much and now, after tomorrow, the rest we are seeking can be allowed to happen.
But we know it isn’t as black and white as us and them, because we are them and they are us. After listening to an Advent sermon I realized how true the preacher’s main point was. We love to clutter our lives. Our lives are all ready 99.9% filled during the year with work, home, and all the extracurricular activities. From January to Thanksgiving we pour as much into our lives as possible until December. When December hits we pour in even more. Somehow we can transform our lives to fit in extra holiday parties, shopping sprees, and postage adventures. We write extra letters, check names off lists, and add more bric-a-brac to our all ready filled book shelves. Why? Well because ‘tis the season.
We think we have celebrated Christmas already but Christmas hasn’t even started yet. The world tells us it has. And we go along with it. Heck, we even fight with it. It isn’t Christmas until the Walmart Greeter says Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. It isn’t Christmas until the town hall puts up their nativity scene and Christmas tree. We want the world around us to understand that it is Christmas, do we really understand what it means?
The famous Christmas story I read starts off with three very interesting words, “In those days.” Luke does this to give a very specific time for the incarnation to happen. He wants to frame it in a secular setting so that we will always have a reference. “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” Now we know the ruler of the land and understand the time frame of this event. “In those days” it was the government which dictated what happened and why. It is ‘in those days’ that people had to travel to their homeland, not because they wanted to join their family heritage but because they were told to. Those days were dictated by people in powerful positions, people with authority.
‘In those days’ seems to refer to harder times, sad times, almost forgotten times. Luke carries the same theme. It is almost tiring to talk about the authorities back in those days. We look back at the last 24 days and we start to get tired too. In those days there were the four Christmas parities and the 52 personally labeled Christmas cards. There were the trips to the mall where we waited in line for two hours just to buy the $14 present for our second cousin. There was the traffic and the snow and ice. There were the play practices, cookie baking and the TV specials. In those days we were in a huge hurry for this night to come and now it is here.
In one week we will gather once again with loved ones to welcome in a new year and a new decade. As we look back at the first 10 years of the 21st century, it is amazing to see the tragedy and pain. Simple words bring back memories and struggles. In those days we had hanging Chads, Katrina and Rita, earthquakes, tsunamis, 9-11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Al-Qaida, Saddam, Osama, Obama, market free fall, Madoff, Palin, and so many more. Now as we say goodbye to 2009 we have double digit unemployment, greedy banks, and foreclosed homes Time magazine called this the decade of Hell and for many of us it was just that. . In those days we were filled with fear and unknowing, pain and sorrow.
Jonathan Marlow, a UM minister in Salisbury, posted this on his Facebook account last week. He said, “When humans want to effect social change, they drop a bomb. When God wants to effect social change, He drops a baby.” God does not do things the way we do things. As the angel proclaimed the birth of God’s son into this world they start off with a phrase we need to hear today. “Fear not.” We do not need to fear the next decade or even the 12 days of Christmas. For unto us a child is born. The child wasn’t born ‘in those days.’ The angels proclaim, “to you is born THIS DAY in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
This baby wasn’t born long ago but this day. This night, as we gather in silence and calm, we are reminded that it was in the still of the night that God entered the world and it is in the still of the night that God can once again enter our hearts. The hustle of Christmas is over. The bustle of shopping and spending has come to an end. For the next 12 days we can sit back and bask in the glory of God. We can do so because “this day” is the arrival of the messiah. Not in a palace to a royal family, but to a poor, unwed teenage mother. This child was shunned to a stable and was birthed into a manger.
The world went by without ever noticing and it does so again tonight. But for us, here, in this place, on THIS DAY, we can find hope, peace, joy and love in this child’s arrival. The world doesn’t have the power to take this away from us. There is no war on Christmas because this moment is what Christmas is all about. Without the glitter and sparkle the babe still comes. Without the feast and family and friends, the child still arrives. We cannot stop God from loving us, God does it anyway. We can though be transformed by the gift, by this child.
Here in the quiet…here in the dim light…here THIS DAY…we can hear the angel proclaim and believe with our whole heart that “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
And all God’s people said…Amen.