Lectionary Reflection for Christmas 2011
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Luke 2:17-18
I generally enter into Advent at a leisurely pace, determined to keep the season through prayer, reflection, and a peace that surpasseth all shades of consumerism, secularism, and any other old “ism” that happens to be hanging around. Things progress quite nicely until somewhere close to the fourth Sunday when a familiar panic suddenly seizes at my gut. It’s a feeling that reminds me of riding an old wooden roller coaster; there’s that long, slow, delicious climb counterpointed by the clickety-clack of the cars on the track, followed by a moment’s suspension at the topmost point, and then, then without warning…you are plunged downhill at a blistering pace. Hurtling through the week, I remember all the unbaked cookies, the presents I maybe should have bought or made, the letters and e-mails not yet written, the turkey still frozen, and the Christmas Eve sermon that won’t transfer from brain and heart to keyboard…and…and…before I realize it, that rickety old coaster car is pulling into the station, the ride is over, and it’s time to celebrate the birth of God incarnate. How can I possibly be up to the task?
Yes, Christmas comes–ready or not. For a lot of us it sneaks up like that coaster ride. Despite my best intentions, carefully laid plans, and diligent effort, the hour arrives and finds me like one of the silly virgins in the parable without enough oil for my lamp when the bridegroom finally comes. Christmas Eve is here, and it’s time to worship, to tell again that most holy, most wonderful of stories. The night is dark, the air is chill, and perhaps there is even a dusting of snow. Inside the church building the atmosphere is warm, almost glowing. Pews are filled, decorations lovely, and expectation crackles in the air. For an hour or so, God’s people gather for a word of hope before that rickety roller coaster of life takes off again.
The task at hand is a daunting one. As worship leaders and preachers, our call is to take that familiar story and remove it from its comfortable holiday wrappings and trappings so that its power is unbound and its potential unleashed on a people sorely in need of hope. Of course one hopes for eloquent, meaningful words, but above all these words tonight must be real. God’s inbreaking into our human condition needs to be heard but also seen, felt, tasted, and born afresh in each beating heart. Empowered by the Holy Spirit as God’s agents in this conspiracy of divine love, we are collaborators, storytellers, and curators of the good news.
Where people feel there is no room for them in this world, help them hear that Jesus was born into a place where there was no room for him. Where many feel like outsiders, the story of the shepherds’ joyous invitation to come and see must also be their invitation. For those who feel the absence of love, the loss of hope, the sting of regret, then the angels’ announcement that God favors them should ring clear. Somehow, in this small sliver of precious time amidst candles, chrismons, and carols we will commune intimately with God incarnate and with each other. This is indeed a holy night, we gather on holy ground, and we are God’s holy people. It is that simple and that profound; it is amazing. This is Christmas, and the gift just keeps on giving; in fact, the Gift himself has pitched his tent to live among and in us. Let us enter the celebration with wonder, joy, and amazement.
A blessed and holy Christmas to you and yours.