Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas greetings... more than a day... a season, a life.

As far as I can tell, the first Christmas greeting ever mentioned in Scripture was not a Christmas card at all. It was more of a singing telegram sung by a choir of angels near the outskirts of Bethlehem where shepherds watched their flock by night. And as far as I know, those famous Magi bearing gifts for the Christ Child arrived after the fact… and their gifts represented not just a moment or a day in time, but a life to be lived, one that would develop and grow and bless many in its wake.

Enter the wisdom of the Church’s meditation on the Birth of Christ, giving us a sense that this blessed event was really a season… that we are entering into a new time, a new era.

A new order of life opened up that first Christmas night. And we have never been the same.

The Christmas season for the Christian is everything that comes after the birth of the Newborn King. Just like the life of a family celebrates the birth of a child after their arrival. This does not discount the advent of the child’s birth as unimportant. That is an important time of patient interior nurture. It anticipates the changes to come within the family, and allows time for appropriate preparations. But a birth brings external celebrations and excitement and blessed obligations. A birth initiates changes within all the relationships of the family, and beyond to the wider community.

The real joy is not just about a birth day, but the life that it represents… a tiny soul born with a profound destiny.

So in the spirit of birth announcements arriving after the birth, and the spirit of a continued season of wonder and joy as we welcome a newborn in our midst… 

Let us be about the holding and the hugging…  

Let us practice saying his name lovingly on our lips… 

Let us take turns embracing his family and kissing and cooing the warm bundle that is ours to share.

Let us linger over this somehow… like Mary did… by pondering these things in our hearts. Even if the rest of the material world is packing up Christmas, or selling it for 75% off, we can silently be assured that something more than day has passed. And something more remains.

Christ has truly entered in, for all time.

We have been given a new life in and through this Holy Babe. May we understand this, so many centuries later, that we have a Savior who, truly, anticipated our own births. And his loving gaze and outstretched arms still await our coming into full knowledge of our profound destiny.

May the grace of Christmas be yours for more than just one day, but every day. And may your New Year mark many days where Christ enters in.

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous Gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.

No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
the dear Christ enters in.

(O Little Town of Bethlehem, Phillips Brooks 1835-1893)



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