When I was a young child, I would have climbing the walls the past couple weeks WAITING for Christmas to arrive! I do remember once thinking in July that we had gotten over the hump in the long WAIT for Christmas. Then, shortly after Thanksgiving the actual Christmas decorations would start going up. In our house a tree never showed up until about December 15 – 10 days being about the max for keeping a fresh cut tree looking good. Although mom had a box of actual store-bought Christmas tree decorations, we kids loved to string pop corn and paste bright colored construction paper chains together until almost no actual foliage could be seen. Stockings would be hung, somewhere in that last week mom always arranged a telephone call from ‘Santa’. A box of oranges (the only time of year we had oranges) and a dish of vanilla crème drops showed up (always managing to make their mysterious appearance when I wasn’t looking!). All these little markers and progressions finally led to laying awake in bed on Christmas Eve, having set out the milk and cookies and determined to stay awake until….zzzzz.
Then the big day arrived.
Well, things have changed. These days I feel like the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day passes far too quickly. There are so many things to do and so little time to do them that the season is over before I have much got to enjoy it. But there are high lights, markers and progressions: Singing the old Christmas Carols and the new songs the contemporary praise band learns, the Christmas play (the youth of the congregation really knocked our socks off this year – helpful hint: put your socks back on before leaving the church building – Ohio December evenings are cold. The personal Bible studies that inform and build the sermons for the Christmas season. All these things have nothing to do with the glitter and color that so thrilled my childhood days. And the mysteries of Santa have been squeezed aside by a much deeper and more profound mystery – the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The few weeks at our disposal are inadequate for considering such things and suddenly, it is January.
The secret lies in the realization that the blessings of the incarnation are not limited to a season. The big event came – as the Bible says – in the fullness of time: that is, following millennia of preparations that involved whole peoples, cultures, languages, nations, societies, and more. The markers and progressions that led to the Christmas event took in the whole phenomenon of Hebrew prophecy, the entire panoply of Eastern monarchs, the rise and fall of powers, earthly and heavenly, the ministries of men and angels and LOTS MORE. Nor is it only the relative past of all those years BC. The blessings of the incarnation have spanned all the years, languages, peoples and powers since as we mark off the steps along the way to the next phase of God’s REALLY BIG PLAN – in the fullness of time. Suddenly, hanging a stocking seems somewhat trivial and the taste of those crème drops fades.
I am not anti-presents, trees, decorations, etc. – I do believe glitter is immoral and ought to be illegal, but only because it is impossible to contain. But the Christmas season is already short enough and we do have to be careful of distractions from the actual point. I hope you have a blessed Christmas in every possible sense.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church