Thursday, December 22, 2005

Preparing for Christmas

Sweeping, mopping, tidying, cleaning, vacuuming, and preparing the halls for decking -- hours of labor! Making cookies, fudge, cakes, and pies... preparing for Christmas dinner (be it ham or lamb or goose or roast beef, with whatever vegetables and such seem right this year). Finding the floor in my office space after what seems like an endless fall semester, as life at the church becomes even busier than in November!

However hectic, "these are a few of my favorite things...." I can't complain -- much -- or at least I shouldn't. I love much of the Christmas bustle, and even enjoy the excitement at church. Our churches are often filled with wonderful carols, and at least at this time of year, we create festively decorated worship space (though I wish we could do more of that for other seasons of the year). Christmas day comes, and the wonderful texts from John and Hebrews proclaim the real meaning of Christmas -- "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."

It might surprise you to discover, after all these affirmations, that Christmas isn't my favorite holiday. I'm really more of an Easter person. Not only is it the central feast of the Christian faith, nativity without resurrection would be utterly pointless. Despite the "uncertainty" of why Christmas is when it is that many moderns accept as gospel truth, or the suggestion that December 25 was simply a date that derived from its proximity to pagan festivals, the fact is that the early church probably selected the date of Christmas (or Epiphany, in the East: December 25/January 6) based on their relative dating of Easter (Thomas J. Talley is the best source for this information -- but this site has a good review of his work).

So let's really remember "the reason for the season," this year. Christmas is the feast of the Incarnation, and if God had not become Flesh, Jesus' crucifixion would be no more salvific than the execution of anyone else. Let's not cheapen the Nativity of our Lord by reducing Christmas to a "Happy Birthday Jesus," or a festival of "oh, the meek little baby Jesus..."

Instead of singing "Away in a Manger," and leaving it at that (as fun as that is), let's all listen to "Of the Father's Love Begotten," at least once (though doesn't have the text, it's #184 in the UMH), and remember that the author of Hebrews has it right:
In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Merry Christmas, one and all!

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

Merry Christmas guys! You should pop over to my page and help with the theological debate--is Jesus a pacifist (or something like htat . . .)