Sermon text: John 1: 1-18
Christmas is more than a season, it is a way of life. Now, for many people, I am certain that Christmas is a way of life, at least for the month of December. Can you imagine if Christmas extended beyond January 6—beyond the church’s twelve days, or if it was more than just the entire month of December?
I realize this is easier to imagine as stores push Christmas decorations and specials earlier and earlier in the fall…but imagine a life full of decorations, gift giving, cookie baking, predictable Hallmark movies, carols, peppermint flavoring, and gingerbread. Part of Christmas’ appeal is the seasonal charm, but what if that season stretched beyond what is culturally and religiously considered normal and appropriate?
Last week I touched briefly on the Christmas tree that sits in the corner of my living room, giving off its soft white glow. I also have a string of large, vintage looking bulbs that are stretched across my living room. I love to turn the lights low and sits in the splendor of these festive lights and I have no plans of taking either down anytime soon. That’s the beauty of a fake tree—I have no real time limit!
I’m in the same spirit as many of my friends who put their trees up weeks before they normally would even consider it. The most ardent Advent observers were decking the halls early because they needed to feel the joy of Christmas, and jumping the gun on the tree or baking or Hallmark movies or Christmas music helped to spread a bit more cheer in an otherwise dreary landscape.
And yet, even with its added value this holiday season, could you really do Christmas all year long? I really shouldn’t ask that question because I’m sure a few people would definitely say yes. But I can remember the times I’ve been in a Christmas shop at non-Christmas times of the year and I know how odd it feels. I don’t think I could handle it. I’m certain that my waist line could not handle it.
Of course, all of the holiday traditions help to remind us of the larger Gospel truth we celebrate at Christmas: The birth of Jesus Christ—or, as John writes, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” Jesus is the light shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. In this child we remember that light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death, and love is stronger than hate.
Those are all message we need to hear again right now, which is why I’m thankful that Christmas is more than just a season, it is a way of life. Because while the cookies, hot chocolate, and ugly sweaters may take a break until next year, the hope and life that we receive in the celebration of Christ’s birth is just the beginning.
Ironically, I can report that 2020 hasn’t even been my worst year on record. Personally, 2017 or 2019 would take the cake, if there was a big, disgusting, moldy cake given for horrible years. But the premise still remains. When life is at its toughest, when we are tried by our circumstances, we need the light of Christ shining in our darkness. And let’s face it, we need the source of our eternal light right now, because last year has disappointed in so many ways.
This week I found another Christmas poem that I want to share with you. I guess Christmas is becoming the season of poetry. This week’s is much shorter than the Maya Angelou piece I shared last time, but it is no less profound. It was penned by Howard Thurman, an American author, educator, philosopher, theologian, and civil rights leader. The poem is titled, “The Work of Christmas.” He writes:
When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nation,
To bring peace among the people,
To make music in the heart.
As Thurman correctly identifies, those are the works of Christmas. Even though it is uncomfortable to admit, we are the lost, the broken, the hungry, the prisoner, the ones looking to rebuild, and the searching for peace. Our hearts are longing for music. Let’s face it, we’re in over our heads. We are lost as virtual tutors, we are broken as social networks, we are hungry for good food in restaurants, we are prisoners of pandemic, our polarized nation feels like it is in shambles, and we are lacking any semblance of peace or security or certainty as we plan for the upcoming weeks and months. The stage is set for the work of Christmas to begin.
In verse 18, John writes, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” That’s the beauty we celebrate this season—God made the decision to become one of us. God made the decision to take on our life. And with that decision comes hope. This season we are reminded that God enters our mortal life so that we might have eternal life. We remember that God’s commitment to us is absolute. We see that the mystery of God, that which we could never fully comprehend, is now born of flesh and blood. God is with us. We have Emmanuel.
And even though we celebrate these truths for a short season of twelve days, the truth itself follows us into the rest of our lives. Jesus walks beside us, helping us to bear our burdens and disappointments, helping us to celebrate our victories and advances. The word was made flesh and we have someone to hold on to. The light and hope of Christ is with us for a lifetime, and this season is only the beginning. AMEN