Christmas has changed for me over the years. I used to have trouble sleeping, wondering what would be under the tree Christmas morning. Now, I collapse into bed after singing outside in winter, my fingers frozen on Christmas Eve. My introverted nature kicks in after an evening with church family and a family dinner afterwards.
Christmas morning brings more joy, though, because I look forward to seeing other faces open their gifts. Seeing a face light up in genuine smile at a surprise gift makes my heart truly glad.
I think back to the start of this whole Christmas thing. A miraculous baby born into a family sleeping on the floor of the animal room. Seemingly, the only ones aware of the meaning of this child are poor, ornery shepherds who arrive still smelling heavily of sheep and dirt. Up to two years later, magi (magical advisors to an Eastern ruler) show up with incredibly costly gifts. And to keep score, Matthew and Luke both describe this baby, Jesus, as inheriting the kingdom not only of Israel (a challenge to Herod and his family) but also inheriting a bigger kingdom the whole world (a direct challenge to Caesar himself.)
The baby seems so non-threatening, so peaceful, so unassuming. It seems often overlooked that this baby’s very existence threatens to shake the world of his day to the very core, the aftershocks reaching up to the modern day. The baby invites adoration, and demands faith, loyalty, and transformation.
I look around and the situation seems to have changed little over the years. Here we are, in the most commercial season of the year. Colors, decorations, songs, parties, food, and joy seem to be thrown around like cheap confetti. Yet, it seems in all the celebration, the grand majority seems to have missed the statement made by the child’s birth: the people are free!
A kingdom has come, one characterized by love, by service to one another, by joy, by a peace founded in reconciliation. A king has come who shares in his people’s pain, whose heart is broken at sickness, pain, and death – one who experienced these things and more on his way to triumphing over them.
Christmas is powerful, then and now.