Missing Christmas Already
One of the unfortunate things about the holiday season is how quickly it goes by. I did not grow up in the Presbyterian tradition, so the practice of Advent has been a relatively new and welcome one for me that’s made the Christmas season more rich and, better yet, prolonged. Yet, here we are a week later and the next holiday has pushed our celebrations of Jesus’ birth out of our minds already. I’m not ready to move along so quickly.
A couple of weeks ago I was driving along listening to Christmas music when the African American Spiritual “Mary Had a Baby” came on. I was struck by the simplicity of the song.
Mary had a baby (my Lord…)
Where did she lay him? (my Lord…)
Laid him in a manger (my Lord…)
What struck me in that simplicity was how it portrayed how mundane Jesus’ coming was. As far as most people were concerned, Jesus’ birth was unremarkable, aside from being born in the midst of farm animals. There were no mylar balloons awaiting his arrival, no family members anxiously pacing outside in the hospital hallway, no baby shower—just Mary had a baby and laid him in a manger. Few people knew it was happening, even fewer cared.
The last line of the Spiritual goes, “Angels went around him (my Lord…)” and here I was struck by something different. Jesus’ arrival in the midst of humble circumstances revealed the thin veil between our world and the next. Like light pouring around a curtain, the heavens were bursting to tell the world that something amazing was happening: God became a man. Of course, the irony of the Christmas story is that only pagan gentiles and filthy sheep-herders heard the message. Perhaps they lacked the common sense to deny what seemed impossible.
And that’s our problem too. As the celebration of our God’s Incarnation recedes behind us, do we miss the way heaven glimmers on the edges of our mundane lives? With God’s presence, Immanuel, come his gifts: peace, joy, love, hope. Are we too quick to glance past these things because they appear in our day to day lives? Do we miss the Spirit of God moving in our own lives because things seem too normal? I wonder.
As a new year begins, take the time to slow down and pay attention to what God is doing around you. Where do you see evidence of him working in your friends, your family, yourself? Where do you see signs of his goodness in creation, or in your workplace? We get so carried along by our busyness; don’t rush past the manger and miss the angel choirs singing.