As Christmas approaches, there’s a lot of focus on going. We go shopping. We go to parties. We go to Candlelight Services. We go to visit relatives. Whatever else Christmas may mean to us, the primary message seems to revolve around us going somewhere and doing something. We take it for granted that Christmas can’t happen without us – it just won’t be Christmas unless we do all this stuff.
But spiritually, all the going and doing have nothing to do with what Christmas is really all about. Even though we rhapsodize about Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, the story beings much earlier (Luke 1:26-38) with the coming of an angel (a word that means “messenger”) who announces Mary’s selection to be the bearer of a child who will change the world for the better. It begins, not with her heroic activity, but with the coming of the Divine Presence into her life in a profoundly intimate, personal, and physical way. The experience puts a song in her heart – a song that we usually refer to as “The Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55). It’s a song that says nothing about all the great things she has done or will do, but speaks exclusively about what God is doing in the world and in her life right now. And what a song it is! The song is revolutionary! It speaks of God’s overthrowing the high and mighty, and bringing justice to the poor and oppressed. It’s about turning the social order upside down (or perhaps, more correctly, right side up!).
That is a message that echoes down the corridors of time and demands that we cease our frantic activity to listen to it. In a time like this when it seems that the rich, the powerful, the proud, and the arrogant seem to have taken firm control of our political and economic institutions, we desperately need to hear the news that God has turned the tables on them all and elevated the estate of those who are helpless. It is a message that is far from obvious – that seems much too good to be true. But perhaps, like Mary, it’s a message that rings true in the deepest chambers of our souls. It’s a message that dismisses the ephemeral grandeur of the rich and powerful, and proclaims that love, not power, will ultimately determine the course of human history.
So if that profound truth doesn’t lie at the heart of your Christmas celebration, then stop whatever you’re doing and let that sink in. Christmas is about the God who comes to us and meets us in the most simple and mundane places imaginable. Forget about the tree, the presents, and cleaning the house for now. The biggest and best gift of all is right in front of you . . . even amidst the dirty dishes in the sink, the dust bunnies under the bed, and in the smelly stable out back where no one but God would ever want to spend the night.
A Blessed Christmas to you all!