Last Sunday after worship, the Christmas season arrived at our house. We transformed our home with Christmas decorations over the course of the afternoon. The seasonal fall decorations (and a few leftover Halloween ones) came down and red, white, green, and gold exploded. The rooms were filled with Christmas carols. Simon stole a jingle bell from that ornament box and was dinging it through the hall. We had ladders and chairs everywhere to hang garland and bows. Closets were carefully opened to not reveal unwrapped Christmas presents that were already hiding from Black Friday shopping. (Don’t tell Evan and Simon.) Even with Christmas a month away, it felt like it was closer once the house looked the part.
We celebrate Christmas with decorations. We celebrate it with presents. We celebrate it with family, friends, and neighbors. We even prepare for it, sometimes months in advance, but what are we celebrating? What does Christmas bring to you? What does Advent prepare for you?
For me, it brings those four words so associated with this time of year and Christ’s birth: joy, hope, peace, and love. It means the arrival of a baby in a manger, Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ the Son of God. More than that, we are preparing for and celebrating what it means that he is born. The divine has come close to the human. Our comfort and strength lives among us. God and humanity are one in Jesus Christ. Our Savior is here. Christmas means all of that. It brings all of that.
Jesus’ arrival brings change, as well. It means change to us and to the world. His arrival will bring wholesale upheaval to the order of the world both at his time and ours. Christmas brings change to us. At this time of year, more than any other, we do not live for ourselves. This is one of the changes his birth brings and is part of our Advent preparation. We serve others in soup kitchens. We buy presents for folks off of Angel Trees. We donate to charities serving the neediest in our communities. We invite people into the transformative story of Christmas at Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols Services. Some of that may happen elsewhere in the calendar, but it happens with a particular vigor as Christ’s birth approaches. It is a reminder, again and again, that the world is changed, is changing, will change.
Christmas brings Christ. Christmas brings change. What will it bring to you?