I really wonder if Christmas means anything anymore. And I am not talking about some surface, charade level Christmas that is all dressed up in glittery green, red, and gold with rounded snowscapes and the jingling of silver bells to Winter Wonderland.
I mean, does Christmas really mean anything at all anymore to real life? Does it mean anything to real people?
Sure there are the festive carols that are sung, likely more from rote, mechanical memory than anything.
Sure there are houses decorated, both inside and out, with vibrant and festive lights, magical snowmen with corn cob pipes, and a portly and cheerful Santa drawn by a sleigh of flying reindeer.
Sure there are presents carefully wrapped and taped in candy cane patterned wrapping paper placed under the ol’ Tannenbaum.
And sure, there is the occasional nativity scene with the Caucasian-looking, first-family of God surrounded by smiling animals, sterile and scrubbed Shepherds, and a few wise guys (who likely didn’t even show up until much later).
Does it sound like I have grown wildly cynical about Christmas?
Well, I promise I haven’t (at least not completely).
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for jovially singing a herald hymn, making a plump, carrot-adorning snowman with my kids, watching A Christmas Story marathon in my pajamas, listening to Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC, and maybe, just maybe drinking a Peppermint Mocha Latte. Not likely, but maybe. So I’m not trying to be the Grinch Who Is Stealing Christmas here.
It’s just that I have grown so weary.
Christmas has become an inane tradition that has devolved into some sort of innocuous cultural extravaganza superficially adorned with tinsel and lights, but woefully devoid of eternal meaning and lasting daily significance.
Christmas has become a cosmetic application covering our collective brokenness, our widening division, and our misplaced hopes.
Christmas has become our annual yuletide sedative dulling the deepest longings of our soul for a moment, but then soon fading and leaving us with even more longing for things to be made right- our world, our relationships, our own hearts.
We are truly a people walking in darkness who need a great light. We are a people in a land of deep darkness who desperately need a light to dawn.
Christmas is so much more than a singular, once-a-year celebration of the baby Jesus being born in a manger, so much more than a good reminder that we need to be people of good cheer and goodwill, so much more than eating together and opening gifts, and so much more than remembering the baby who later “died on a cross to save us from our sins.”
It’s not that any of those things are wrong or bad. It’s just that we can very easily miss, or minimize, one of the most cataclysmic, world altering, and subversive acts in the history of the world.
For if the Resurrection was God’s final and decisive victory over sin and death, then the Advent of Christ was the day the war began.
And no, I’m not talking about some sort of “chip on the shoulder” Christian culture war. I’m not talking about some inane war of Holiday cups versus Christmas cups. And I’m certainly not talking about some ridiculously manufactured-by-the-news “War on Christmas” propaganda.
Christmas is not a defensive posture.
Christmas is an offensive measure of cosmic proportions with eternal implications.
It was the first day of Advent when the Word made flesh invaded and brought eternal life and hope to those in the land of the shadow of death.
The Advent of Jesus Christ is God’s decisive act of breaking into our time and space dimension, confronting the hostile, divisive, war-torn rogue empires and kingdoms of the world, and then inviting every person into an entirely new country, with a new allegiance, and a new way of living.
The Advent of Jesus Christ is a complete confrontation and pushing back the dark, violent powers of evil that hold up every broken, oppressive system bent on wounding, breaking, marginalizing, victimizing, oppressing, dividing, and warring.
The Advent of Jesus Christ is the inauguration of a kingdom that operates in opposition to the conventional wisdom of the world by loving friends and enemies, stopping the retributive cycle of antagonism and violence by forgiving and working toward peace and reconciliation with every person and every relationship.
The Advent of Jesus Christ is the ever-present invitation and beckoning call to the oppressed and oppressor, the slave and the free, the broken and the healed, the heavy-hearted and the hopeless, the lame and the sick, the homeless and the businessman, the conservative and the liberal, the anarchist and the bureaucrat, the imprisoned and the free, the religious and the atheist, and every person of every skin color from every culture, every nationality, every tribe, and every tongue to come out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son, a kingdom of Light and Love.
And this Advent continues in to the present and will continue on into the future, birthing new life daily through those who follow in the way of the Christ.
For we are the light of the world and we let our lights shine before others so that they may see our good deeds and glorify God. The Advent of Christ is happening right now and it is an invitation into the best life possible.
It is an offer of peace to the war-torn and embattled, healing to the broken-hearted, freedom to the enslaved, joy to the grieving, kindness to the outcast, relief to the addicted, sanctuary to the abused, purpose and direction for the lost, and an all-encompassing, all-embracing love for all.
So does Christmas mean anything to real people anymore? It means everything.
Peace and love…