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What Does it Matter?

December 25, 2010

As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk at the church during a break between the gauntlet of Christmas Eve services. We have 3 services throughout the course of the day. I spent yesterday trying to finish the last-minute shopping and cleaning (I shamefully left my wife to finish the cleaning portion while I spent my day at the church today). My family will be in town tomorrow afternoon and we’ll celebrate an unorthodox Christmas together. The season has come and will soon be gone just as fast as it came. Lights will come down and the music of the season will soon leave my car radio and the shopping malls for another year. Being a pastor, I have found the joy and burden of having more than enough sweets to spare.

In the quiet moments that have been few and far between this season, I’ve found myself wondering what does any of this matter? I mean really, in the grand scheme of things what does Christmas even matter? If we reduce it to a day where we can recieve and give gifts, then fine. Let it be that. Most pastors can probably admit to the struggle of participating in the tug-of-war between the Holy Day and Holiday Season. But it’s not just about materialism we struggle against. If we’re all truly honest, I think we can admit that doubt over the true meaning of the season is very much alive and well. And it’s not a matter of the secular vs. the holy-it’s more a battle over whether we really know what’s actually “holy” about this day in the first place.

I was sitting at dinner with my wife the other night, and she raised a very good question. “I think the whole ‘God did a great thing on Christmas’ is good, but what about Mary and Joseph,” she asked. “What about them,” I responded. She said, “Well they sure did a big thing-having the child and keeping him safe, leaving Bethlehem to go to Egypt and then back to Nazareth. I don’t think they get enough credit sometimes. They kept him alive against all odds.”

And then it occured to me. We celebrate Christmas as though it were this one-time event. It’s a yearly ritual where we recall something great that God did long ago and far away. But what if it’s not supposed to be that way? What if there’s more to the story than we realize?

Christmas is when hope is born anew. Mary and Joseph knew than meets the eye. They truly did something extraordinary to see that Hope would be protected no matter what. What do we do at Christmas to do the same? Is this simply a ritual we do where we tell an ancient story in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the rest of our Christmas duties? Or, is this our opportunity to look to something truly extraordinary-larger than even our own lives-and say, “Yes, this is the true hope of life as we know it!” There is so much in our everyday lives that tell us this can’t be so. But Christmas, of all the seasons, is our chance to look and point to something greater than our everyday lives, and declare that in spite of everything else around us, hope is alive.

And we carry this hope beyond just this day. We carry it to the far regions of our lives with courage. There will be a lot in life that will try to extinguish this hope. But we carry it anyways. After all, once we’ve experienced this hope of Christmas-the hope of God-how can we not be changed by it?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Roberta Johstono permalink
    December 25, 2010 6:47 pm

    Thank you, Ben, for putting into words why this time of year is so special.

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