For the past several weeks we have been furiously baking and shopping and decorating and doing all our other Advent/Christmas things. Now the big event is finally here.
We probably didn’t get to make all the preparations we wanted to make. Maybe everything didn’t or won’t come off without a hitch. But maybe now we realize that all we do doesn’t matter so much as we at last celebrate the glory of Christ’s birth.
“Now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
In light of the light that is Jesus, God’s Son, nothing else seems so very important. When we consider his birth and its impact on all of human history, everything else falls into focus in its proper perspective.
Jesus, God’s Word, says something new to us. It’s a word of grace and love and forgiveness, and that changes everything.
Christmas is a time of profound thoughts.
But it’s hard for us to think about or imagine a time before time. It’s hard for us to comprehend God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit happily existing together — Three in One and One in Three — before the creation of the world.
Yet the beautiful Prologue to John’s Gospel, that profound ancient hymn, tells us that Jesus existed before all eternity. It tells us that Jesus was there at creation.
God didn’t create the world because he wanted people to worship him. God created because he wanted people to love and be at one with him, to share in his eternal happiness. Jesus, God’s plan for bringing us together with him, is also the eternal creator, without beginning or end. That’s a tough concept for me to fathom. I can only accept it on faith, faith that God’s Word is true — the true light that shines on our path and brings us joy.
Christmas is a time of profound emotions.
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like living without the light and joy of Christmas each year. The world can get so overwhelming and tiring; we need a respite, we need a break. We need a season to set aside our daily worries and cares — a time when people set aside their differences and disagreements at least for a while.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that could last forever? Wouldn’t it be great if the peace and joy we find in a measure at Christmas could last the whole year long? Maybe it can.
That’s what heaven will be like: all light and joy and peace. As shepherds and wise men praised the Christ child in joyful adoration, so will we merrily gather around the throne of the Lamb singing our new songs of praise.
The book of Revelation tells us that in the New Jerusalem there will be no need of sun or moon because the Lamb of God, that is Christ, will be it’s light. In heaven we will bask in everlasting light. That is the same light that came into our world that first Christmas.
We don’t need to wait for heaven to bask in Christ’s light. We experience heaven here on earth. The light of Christ shines on us now.
We feast on God’s Word in our hearts right here. That is the message of Christmas.
Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. We are not alone. God is in, under and above us. We live, move, and have our being in Him. He is the ground of our being; He is our all-in-all. His Word is the guiding principle of the universe, of all that is seen and unseen.
That Word dwelt among us.
The divine wisdom that crafted the cosmos most amazingly, most unexpectedly took human form in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus left us a living testament, a new covenant, in his written word, a word that we can read and hear and speak for our spiritual enlightenment, so that we might be pointed to the light of Christ.
Jesus also left us another testament, a means of his presence and grace in the sacrament of his body and blood. This is the Holy Communion we celebrate today. It is for us a “visible word,” a concrete, tangible statement of God’s love for us.
The body and blood of Jesus are as surely present on our altar today as they were in the manger 2,000 years ago. God’s intimate interaction and intervention with our world are not just actions of the long distant past; they are new to us every morning with the light of daybreak.
“Is Jesus really with us?” we ask. Yes, even in the darkness of this world, with all our debts and doubts and worries, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not over come it.” And it never will. It never will.
Jesus is born!
Jesus has triumphed.
Eric Ash is the former pastor of The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Monroeville, Pa. He is a graduate of the Lutheran seminaries at Gettysburg and Philadelphia. He and his wife of 29 years, Melanie, have two adult children.