I love that Christmas isn’t a day but its a season that is 12 days long. Although our culture moves on immediately into Boxing Day, then Boxing Week and then to the next advertisement driven event, the rhythm of the Church is different. You could call it counter-cultural or perhaps it’s the lost norm that would benefit us if it were recovered. Our celebration of the Incarnation doesn’t stop at angels declaring “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom God favors.” It keeps going. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…and nothing was the same again! Because Christmas was not just a long -time event but a present one too and is more than just a day but it is also a world changing event.
So here in the midst of the Christmas season I’d like us to think about the ramifications of the event we celebrated last Friday: the Nativity of the Lord, the Incarnation. We read about the Light coming into the world. We spoke about the anomaly that marked God entering space-time and how that moment changes everything, including us. We remembered that St; Athanasios said that God became Man so that people might become “divine” or more like God. We anticipated the entering into the world of the Word and the world’s sanctification by Jesus the Christ taking on flesh. We celebrated the scene around a manger with a baby, shepherd, angels and Mary. Now I wonder how does that story continues in our daily lives.? How has it impacted our lives? How is today different because of it? What has the celebration of the Incarnation, the sanctification of us all through Christ becoming human changed for us in our lives?
Isaiah refers to us being clothed with the garments of salvations indicating an external change in us due to God’s actions through Christ. In Galatians we hear that an internal change has occurred too. We’ve become children of God, no longer a slave but a child and heir. So if God is with us and that changes us then…what? What is different in our actions? It won’t be the same for everyone, just like Simeon and Anna’s perspective on the birth of Jesus were different than Mary’s or Zechariah’s. All three of today’s readings tie together humanity’s thankfulness for what was done by by God entering the world. A gratitude for what God has done in the Incarnation, a joy that God chose to move towards creation that results in a change…a change in behavior, in action, and in the thoughts of the created.
The question that is posed to each of us is steeped in the reality that “God is with us” and that changes us all. However the answers to that question, the hows or whats or wheres are specific to each of our own contexts.
Emmanuel…God with us, means change. How can we not be changed? And in that line of thinking I wonder, I wonder what is different? What has changed in us because of the coming of Christ into the world?
What about the things that hold us back? Things that we grasp because we think we need to live but in reality hold us back from living fully. Has our thinking around them changed?
What can we let go of today in order to move forward? When we try to hold on to too much we can drop what’s really important. What might we need to let go of in order to take hold of the life and love that God offers? What indeed?
How about the way we look at the world? Is the glass half full or half empty? Are we quick to see fault and deficit? God is with us changes that.
How might hope shape your perspective today? Is Christmas a time to escape the world? No, on the contrary, God is with us in the midst of the mess and muddle of this world including this current mess of Covid.. As a result we can see things today with hope instead of despair. God so loved the world that God sent God’s Son into the world, God did not turn away from the world nor did God seek to remove God’s people from the world.
How does the reality of Christmas change how we make decisions about money, policy, politics, the friends we keep and the way we impact the world around us?
How might faith shape the choices you make today? Faith is not a leap in the dark but a journey. A journey always begins with the first step. What first step might faith be inviting us to take today?
How does Christmas move us from the myth of scarcity to the reality of abundance? Jesus cared about the poor the marginalized, the outcasts. Not only did he care for them because God cares for them but God became human in just those circles. When Jesus was presented at the Temple his parents gave the paupers sacrifice of 2 pigeons or turtle doves. God so loved the poor that he became one of them, proclaimed to them and fought for them. That requires some thinking on our part. What are we doing for the other, the poor, the marginalized?
What can you do for someone else today? Traditionally Boxing Day was a time to give boxes of gifts to those in need. It was a time when the society as a whole looked to offer something to those without. Unfortunately Boxing Day has been corrupted and become part of the general malaise of society. It is now part of the overall greed and consumerism that grips our culture. Instead of buying more stuff that we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like perhaps we should return to doing something for someone else. Instead of buying, giving. What can we do to be a gift to someone else today?
Incarnation. Nativity. Christmas. By whatever name we call it, it culminates in a new transformative reality. God has entered our world and taken on our body so that we might embody and participate in the divine nature. We remember that God’s faithfulness through Jesus Christ has resulted in a new reality; a new creation, a new world in which the children of God exist as equals, on mission together to see the world transformed through love so that it might reflect the beauty, peace, and purpose of the God who is the singer of a song of love. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, singing a major triad that rings out across all creation bringing light and life and love, forever and ever. Amen.