Each year as December arrives completely out of nowhere, one thing is inevitable: no matter how organized the Christmas lights are each year when they are packed up, you always retrieve the box out of the attic only to find that they are tangled up once again.

 

But the lights aren’t the only things tangled up this time of year. As I try to reflect on the Advent season and it’s true meaning, I sometimes catch myself getting tangled up in the beauty of Christmas lights and the colorfully-wrapped presents under the tree and even the family reunions of the holiday season. Not that lights, presents or family are bad. Actually, I LOVE Christmas lights and giving to those you care for is a sign of their importance to you [just don’t over do it]; and of course family is important in this season as we gather together in a spirit of love and unity.

I have to share this story now that I’ve mentioned Christmas lights… our family has an interesting and rather odd tradition that is very dear to my heart…and funny bone! Growing up in a town where decorating houses is a full-time job, my sisters and I used to have a competition when we rode in the car somewhere with regards to how many houses we saw with Christmas lights on our respective side of the car. For some reason or another, the catchphrase used to signify a decorated house was…”Stephen!” I’m not sure why we used that name or who it referred to but most night rides in December were filled with the ecstatic cheering of “Stephen!” But like I said, it isn’t that Christmas lights are bad; we must simply remember that there is more to Christmas than all the things we have to “do.”

When someone asks me what Christmas is about I usually have a few answers: (1) church answer: baby Jesus is coming! See you at the Christmas Eve service! (2) family answer: our family is going to be together for Christmas to share in each others’ company and see who can eat more of mom’s Christmas cookies! (3) selfish answer: we get a few weeks out of school or a few days off work and we even get presents for doing so.

But I believe, by being tangled up in the Christmas season, we numb the BIG DEAL that is Christmas. It’s not that Jesus is coming. It’s…THAT JESUS IS COMING! That God, out of incomparable and unconditional love for us, humbled God’s self to send Jesus into flesh and blood with the purpose of loving all through his life and loving us even more through his death and resurrection. And Jesus did not come as a mighty warrior or king to say, “I have come to have complete dominion over you.” Rather, Jesus entered this world as an innocent baby, inviting those around him to join him in love and praise to God…and then make that their life. A life of love for others and praise to God. And when we reflect upon who God is and all that is from God, to think that THAT same God who IS love came to be here with us and with us forever is worth more than a Christmas Eve service and a few colorful trees with way too many breakable objects. This Jesus, this Immanuel (“God with us”), is worth more than a few extra prayers and church appearances than the other 11 months. This act of love is a gift that God lavishes upon us freely and continues giving it to us forever (even if we aren’t acknowledging or accepting it).

I don’t mean to hate on the Christmas festivities so much. Nor do I propose that we eradicate all forms of Christmas cheer (who do you think I am…the Grinch?)

I simply want us to take  moments throughout the busy-ness of the season (to untangle ourselves from the Christmas lights) and reflect on what Christmas really means to you, to God, for this world. So with that, I will lecture no further. Rather I will ask questions that I pray you (and I) take the time to consider:

-What does it mean to you that God came down to earth to be with us?

-Is God’s presence in this world and in the church and in your life a big deal to you? If so, how?

-God shares his love with us that we may share it with others. How can you share God’s love with others this Christmas? (Then do it!)

-What does Christmas mean to you?

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“O Come, O Come Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

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Mpaka Wakati Halafu…

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