Nevertheless, Christmas time it is. This is supposed to be a big deal for we who follow Jesus. And yet, we get sucked into the same cultural non-Christmas stuff as much as anyone else. We need to work on that. We might start by reflecting on why celebrating the birth of Jesus is important to us.
Of course, it's important to us for a lot of reasons. It causes us to think about what it means that such a one would be born in a very human way, yet conceived, we are told, by God. We think about the amazing things that will come in the ministry of Jesus. We consider what sorrow will come to him and to all who come to love him.
There is another thing that is wandering through my mind this season: That Jesus' birth signals the unimaginable claim that God, in entering fully into human existence in the person of Jesus, will experience all the inevitabilities of that existence: Life, joy, sorrow, pain, suffering, and ultimately, death. Jesus is born--it is now a guarantee that Jesus will die.
Sometimes we think that the Romans and Jewish leaders who condemned Jesus to death on a cross were responsible for his death--that without them, Jesus would not have died. While it's true that they were the instigators of his death at that point in time, it was God who embraced the inevitability of human death when Jesus was born. For every birth announcement there will one day be an obituary.
Jesus did not come as an innocent "other" who stands between God and the human race, somehow shielding us from what God really wants to do to us. No, Jesus came with all the fullness of God, so that it is God himself who lives, loves, suffers and dies. Remember that Jesus is linked with the ancient Jewish title Emmanuel--God is with us.
Christmas is good. Buy some presents that mean something for people you love, but don't go into debt and don't be dopey about what you buy. Bless your neighbors and co-workers. Find environments of worship and reflection that draw you deeper into the mystery that is the incarnation. Learn about Advent. Live in the story.
Merry Christmas. Hang on for Easter.