On this Christmas Eve similar and predictable events will go on as they have for hundreds of years. Families will gather, there will be feasting, and giving of gifts. Places of business will close. Entire countries have traditions built around this special time of year. No matter where you’re from it’s certain that Christmas plays some part in your activities. Some decry the commercialism. Some hate the busyness. Some work at places where the sheer amount of work to be done at Christmas is a staggering burden to be endured. Many of us vow to simplify Christmas ‘next year’.
But what does it all mean? Underneath the bustling activities of Christmas, the wrapping paper and commercialism is a timeless truth.
Part of my personal tradition is to read the story of Christ’s birth each year. This year the angels stood out like never before. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to see an angel, to have one talk to me. Then I remembered the instruction of scripture regarding angels, that some have entertained them while being unaware of the fact. It’s clear that angels have the ability to be seen as ordinary humans or as dazzling otherworldly beings. Angels came in spades when Jesus was born. Visitation from another world suggests that this birth was of epic proportion.
The account of Christ’s birth is a story filled with such wonder that it stands out in brightness compared to the other Biblical stories, in part due to the multiple sightings of angels, but also because a birth of a baby evokes wonder in us all. It is in a baby that we see potential. Do we not, in our heart of hearts look for a savior in others? If you do not think so, then when they do not live up to your expectations, why are you disappointed? This baby is the answer to all that yearning. In his name hospitals, schools, orphanages, relief organizations, charities and missions, all in the service of love for our fellowman have been founded.
Have there been tragically misguided attempts to invoke the name of Christ to harm others? Without doubt, but the fact that we term such events tragedy confirms there is an unerring mark of perfection. Christ is the center of that point.
Surprisingly, the truth of the Christmas story is not only about Christ but about us. He was born for us, to us and to be with us. Through the layers of the Christmas tradition we find the gift that we really knew all along but were afraid to accept – the sacredness of one life, the sacredness of our life. In him the soul finds its worth. And we, following in his footsteps, build our life around others in an ever widening circle.
Give me a world without commercialism, but not a world without this child.