Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Reason for the Season

    Christmas is just three days away!  It's an exciting time for children of all ages and a sacred time for Christians around the world.  Yet in the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas - costumes for the Sunday School program, shopping, baking, planning meals, traveling -  I am reminded that life keeps right on moving.  The terrible tsunami of a few years ago was a remarkable reminder that life goes on even as we pause to celebrate the birth of the Savior.  Sadly, natural disasters hit on or around Christmas.  Soldiers on the battlefield do not necessarily lay down their weapons on December 24th.  Loved ones receive frightening diagnosis and even die on or about December 25th.  I know.  A friend died this week.  I will go to his funeral visitation tomorrow.  Another friend just told me she has been diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma.  She awaits the next appointment with the oncologist to see what the future holds for her.
    Life doesn't stop because the calendar says December 25th.  I am reminded of the funeral liturgy used in our church.  The opening words say this:  "In the midst of life, we are in death."  (UM Book of Worship) And so it is true.
   What does that mean for us at Christmas?  Acknowledging the truth that in the midst of life we are in death holds an invitation to go deeper with our Christmas celebration.  I most assuredly enjoy the lights and decorating the tree.  I love the music of the season, from the sacred and sublime (think "O, Holy Night') to the silly (think The Chipmunks), I love it all.  I stress a bit over making beds up and preparing meals, but I love having family together.  I even love giving and receiving gifts (and I'm not ashamed to admit it). 
    But the reason for the season goes so much deeper than music and lights and family togetherness.  The reason for the season is Jesus.  It is his birthday, not mine.  Not yours.  Why do we celebrate his birth now, over 2000 years later?  Because the reason for the season is the difference he makes in our lives.
    Miraculously conceived by a virgin?  Okay.  Angels told of his birth?  Magi came to worship him?  Granted.  However, as Christians we always remember and retell the story of his birth looking back through the lens of his death and resurrection.  That he was God's greatest gift to humanity and that we shunned the gift and destroyed it--this is what gives his life - and Christmas - it's meaning.  That after we shunned and destroyed the gift of God, God still loved us enough to transform his death into our chance for eternal life--this is what gives Christmas it's meaning. 
   And when cancer, death, natural disasters and the like invade our lives even in this sacred season of Christmas time, it is in remembering the true reason for the season that we find our strength, our comfort and our hope. 
Blessings to you and all those you cherish at Christmas! 


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