I’m going to do a bit of a “through the years” this December and re-post previous Christmas meditations. I’ll start with my very first Christmas post, the one a few months after I began blogging for the first time.
Life situation: Seth and I had been married for a year, and I was in my first year post-graduation of working as a counselor and pastoral care assistant for two different churches
Here it is –
How would you complete that phrase? “Tis the season … ” To fight crowds in hopes of finding the perfect gifts for that relative who has everything? To make sure you get your Christmas cards out in time? To fill your schedule with holiday parties? To forget what all of this is about: celebrating, giving and receiving gifts, singing carols, decorating your home, attending parties, going to special services and events?
Every year it seems that I fight the same thing — missing Christmas for the hustle and bustle surrounding it. Yet this year has been slightly different. Yes, it’s busy. Yes, I have braved the crowded shops and malls to purchase gifts (and still have a few remaining to buy). We haven’t done Christmas cards — but I want to and plan on at least doing an email Christmas update. So what is different?
A bit more time to reflect. Just a bit. No final exams for the first time in three years has allowed for more time to enjoy this season. To slow down, to remember, to reflect.
At one of the parties of the past week, I was talking to someone about her dinner group that she’s a part of. She made the offhand comment, “It’s so great to meet monthly because that way I don’t have to try to keep up with each person individually.” And for a second, I absolutely agreed with her. It makes sense to my mind that seems programmed to seek efficiency. But is that really love? Or is that viewing people as one more task, obligation, duty?
And imagine if God had decided on the efficient route of salvation. I don’t think it would have involved God becoming a human baby, born in a dingy stable amidst animals. I don’t think it would have meant that Jesus was poor. He could have suddenly appeared in all His glory to be the King of the world, abolishing poverty, sickness and sorrow in an instant and calling all people to follow His reign. Because He’s God, He could have also made all people’s hearts turn toward Him instantaneously.
But He chose instead a path of “inefficiency” as we might label it today. He was born to the poor; His birth announcement came not to the highest officials of the land but to shepherds on the nightwatch. He had to be fully human (while remaining fully God) so He could offer full salvation. The promise of redemption and hope to “a people dwelling in darkness” (from a prophecy in Isaiah 9). And this path ended in excruciating suffering at the cross. Suffering never fits with my definition of efficient.
My challenge as I pause to reflect at moments this year is to remember Christ’s birth — to reflect on this great salvation, this amazing miracle, that came to the humblest and the poorest. To take a break from my efficient goals and actually love the people around me by taking time to enter into their lives wherever they are. This is the mystery of the incarnation.