“It’s Still Christmas”
“It’s Still Christmas”
Well, here we are back in church, and the holidays are over, right? All we see on the tube now are commercials for Post-Christmas sales and “New Year’s Blowouts!” But Christmas is not over! That’s what they may think. But we know better. We know there really are twelve days of Christmas. Today is the third day. Now I am guessing none of us got three French hens this morning, but this is still Christmas. Christmas is not a one day a year thing. It has a long-lasting effect, influencing our lives wherever we go and whatever we do. Today we are reminded that “It’s Still Christmas.”
OK. The next thing I want to do is read a paragraph I wrote for this congregation 12 years ago. I am sharing this with you again because, well, I think it’s kind of funny. And this shows I am not very good at predicting the future. Here’s what I wrote: “I am…going to remind you of something that is not news at all. Erica and I have two lovely, ornery, toy breaking children. Now, no one can say what, or who, they are going to become. Christopher might end up a concert pianist, based on his love of music. (Aside: He lasted in piano lessons less than a year) Matthew may end up a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, based on his zeal and accuracy of throwing toys at his brother! (Matthew has NO INTEREST in football.) But we do not know. One thing is absolutely certain — our lives have been and will be changed forever (because we have had these kids).” End quote.
I shared that with you because I believe many of us know the feeling when something happens in our lives that changes everything. Getting into THAT college or university. Getting married. Getting that job. Having that child.
In a few weeks we will move into a part of the Church Year known as “ordinary time.” The times of the year between the big church holidays (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) and their special seasons are called ordinary. Using similar language then, this time of the year ought to be called “extraordinary.” For most of us, ordinary time is filled with housework, homework, factory work, committee work or busy work. We do our jobs; do the laundry; do the dishes. Each extraordinary day is followed by ordinary days and nights. By this morning, some people will have already packed up “Christmas” and stored it in a box in the attic. My dad was always ready to. The fullness of time (Galatians 4:4) quickly gives way to the dullness of time.
Does the Child born in Bethlehem move both into and out of the center of our lives all on one day in the year? When the frantic pace of the season finally comes to an end, do things go all the way back to the same old normal? Can it be that the Christ-child is someone else’s child and, therefore, only affects the lives of someone named Mary and Joseph? Or can it be that this extraordinary time/event transforms and changes all our time, whether it be ordinary, extraordinary or anytime?
You know, after a child enters a home, that home can never go back to the way it was before, as Erica and I have learned the last 18 years. After Jesus Christ entered the world, and specifically our lives and homes, everyone will have a different “normal” and a new “ordinary.” Mary and Joseph were instructed to name their Child Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.” We are His people. We are saved, we are forgiven, we have been blessed, and that is certainly not ordinary.
Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph ventured into what they may have thought was ordinary time. They did their duty by going to the temple for Mary’s purification ritual and Jesus’ dedication. Like all parents, even their ordinary time had been changed, but they were surprised in the temple by another man and woman who immediately claimed that Jesus had also permanently transformed their lives. The prophet and prophetess both recognized in the tiny baby “the One who saves.”
Simeon sang, “My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.” Sound familiar? (If you grew up a Lutheran, you may recognize those words from the hymnal communion liturgy.) In receiving Christ’s body, broken into death for us, and His blood, shed into death for us, we see the same thing Simeon and Anna saw in the temple that morning. With God’s special gifts, the Word becomes flesh once again — for us. That’s what this communion is. We receive such joy, faith, peace and hope that our lives will never be the same again. Jesus coming to Bethlehem changed everything. Jesus dying for us on the cross changed everything. Jesus rising again on Easter changed everything. And when we come here and receive His Word and His forgiveness and His blessings here, we remember that. What we do here together is not, is never “ordinary.”
I once read the story of some prisoners in a POW camp in Germany in 1944. One day a soldier named MacNeill, heard on the BBC that Normandy had been successfully invaded. Men shouted and jumped for joy, and ran outside to roll in the grass like happy puppies. It would be almost a year before the Allies liberated those prisoners, but not one day of it was the same as it had been before the good news came. They continued to face an “everyday” that was horrible, but their “ordinary time” had been redeemed/changed, and they knew it!
The Good News for us is in another name — Emmanuel, God is with us — He has come! Whatever was wrong with the world before Christmas may still be wrong, there is still evil and sin and bad stuff all around us, and we are still fallen sinners, but the world has been saved and we are forgiven. All the old problems still require our struggling, diapers need changing, dishes still require washing, families need to be fed, dogs need to be let out, chores need to be done, houses need cleaning, homework needs doing and the same old jobs must be performed day by day. Yet, God is with us. He has come to deliver us from dullness and boredom, futility and insignificance, depression and disillusionment. More important, He has come to give us forgiveness of sins and life in abundance — meaning, joy, hope and purpose in living.
Emmanuel has indeed come, and He is Jesus — One who saves His people from their sins. His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection were for us, and He is still with us. He always will be. In the midst of all the humdrum, even humbug needs and deeds of ordinary time and living, He is still with us. We will never understand, but He chooses to be with us. He has come, we have His gifts, and our lives will never be the same.
In the Name of Jesus.