By Curtis Shelburne
Andrew Greeley writes: “It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush.”
Amen! Greeley’s on to something, I think. Something big. Something that colors completely the way God’s people look at life and the faith, which is part and parcel of life.
Ah, there is indeed a time to retreat to a place and a season of quietness and solitude and reflection, a time to retreat from the hustle and bustle not just of the busy Christmas season but of a busy life.
Those ancient Christians were on to something.
Good “Campbellite” kid that I was, I didn’t have any idea what Advent was until I was a good ways into adulthood. Along with a lot of the Protestant church, I’ve learned now the wisdom of having a time of preparation and reflection before celebrating the birth of Christ, a time when we prepare our hearts in faith for the second coming of Christ, as well as reflecting on the first.
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” were just what we sang about, right? No. Those ancient Christians celebrated Christmas not just as a day but also as a season. Twelve days beginning on Christmas Day. The world we live in is not conducive to such, but our family tries consciously during those days, since the shopping and hustle and bustle have slowed down, to bask in the glow of Bethlehem and Christ’s coming, to especially enjoy each other and consciously and intentionally focus on His joy. It was a good idea centuries ago. It’s a good idea now.
For God’s people, joy is genuine and deep, deeper than just lights and tinsel but redemptive of and thankful for such. For those who follow Christ, peace is more than just a word on Christmas cards, though we joyfully give thanks for such good sentiment and the well wishes of good friends and scenes of peaceful beauty. Peace is pervasive and real, deeper than just the absence of conflict, rich with the Presence of His sovereignty and love, present even in the midst of real difficulty and sorrow.
You see, for God’s people, laughter can be more rich and joyful and frequent. Tears should be more meaningful and precious and pure. God not only redeems sinners through His precious Gift, he redeems life and every aspect of it.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org