Monday, December 25, 2006

Rethinking Christmas

What’s in a word? What does it matter if we stop saying the words “Merry Christmas?” Does it make a difference if we replace them with the more comfortable “Happy Holidays?” Our society has cautiously opted to alter its word usage so as not to offend anyone. When you break it all down, they are just words...right? Well, hold on a minute.

We live in a world of chaos. Our jobs demand more of us than we feel we can bear. Our hearts are numbed with the activity and pace of our days. The deepest desires we hold within our souls are buried with the countless things on our “To Do List.” The kids need a bath. Meet with the clients to discuss the new project. The party invitations need to be sent. “Happy Holidays” says to us, “Take a quick break, but don’t get too comfortable. The work will be piling up while you’re gone.” Happy Holidays fits into our modern mindset. It doesn’t interfere. It doesn’t offend. It is safe.

“Merry Christmas” however, is much more dangerous. It has the potential to change the way things are, to rock the boat. “Merry Christmas” awakens the magic and excitement of possibility. It can sometimes offend. These two words are loaded. You see, the words carry with them a story, or more appropriately, the Story. It’s the story that all the stories ever told secretly whisper to us from across the millennia. It is the story of a great cosmic war between good and evil, hope and despair. It is the story of deeper magic.

Christmas isn’t about presents, crackling fires, Rudolph, or even Santa. Yes, those things are wonderful and fun, but they aren’t the essence of Christmas. When you get down to it, it’s about hope. On a dark, quiet, night, over two thousand years ago, a baby was born to a young mother in a stable, in a small town, in Palestine. That is what the world saw on that night. What the world missed was the secret in all of this. The baby was no ordinary baby, but Light itself radiating into a darkened world. This means that the mother was more than she ever realized. She was the mother of the Son of God. The stable was more than just a typical stable; it was the resting place of the infant Christ. The trees cut down to build the stable had a greater destiny than they ever could have conceived when they were but seedlings. The animals lowing in the manger were graced to witness the emergence of the eternal God into the field of time. The town itself was revealed to be the birthplace of the One whose birth had been foretold by prophets and poets over the centuries. The presence of the Christ transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary!

The birth of the Christ is about things being revealed as they really are. In an echo of Genesis, God spoke from that dark, cold, night in Palestine, “Let there be Light!” Out of darkness comes light. Out of despair comes hope. Out of blindness comes sight. The weak are strong. The poor are rich and captives are set free. The infinite God steps into the realm of the finite and nothing is ever the same.

Why do we celebrate Christmas, the Mass of Christ, on December 25th, when most historians assert that Jesus was born in the spring? It was no accident that the early Christians chose a day near the winter solstice to celebrate the Incarnation. It is the darkest time of the year. What a beautiful and appropriate metaphor for the coming of light into this dark world!

This year, slow down. Cancel a meeting. Change a business trip. Do less, not more. Allow a still, quiet, place to be formed within your heart. This is your Bethlehem. Invite Christ to be born into your darkness and shine the light of hope that the world so desperately needs. Just as the stable, the young mother, the animals, and the sleepy town of Bethlehem were shown to be more magnificent than they appeared to be, the Light will also illuminate your heart and reveal you to be more than you ever dreamed. Merry Christmas!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the CHRISTMAS Story!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, [Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Appreciate your post; God Bless You!
We live in Japan and see so much hurt in young Japanese people.

7:11 PM  

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