When I think about past Christmastime’s I always think of my brothers and I having snow fights, or fights with the fake christmas decoration snow. I think of my mom having us kids decorate the tree, then redecorating it after we all went to sleep. Other kids got to go to bed wondering what santa was bringing them under the tree, I went to sleep wondering what glenda was leaving on it.
My favorite Christmas memory, though, has to be my first Christmas with my wife’s parents. We were dating, and I was a little nervous to around her folks – not to mention being disappointed at getting a stocking full of mixed nuts from strangers as opposed to things I liked from family – and Carmel’s little nephew, Ryan, was there. He was only about 5 or 6 years old, which is the perfect age for Christmas, and he was so excited about getting presents. So, on Christmas Eve, he’s running around the house in circles yelling “presents, presents”; and Carmel’s stepmom finally agrees he can open one gift on Christmas Eve, one “special” gift.
So he’s all excited and rips off all the paper, yelling still, and finds a box of turtles chocolates inside. “I got chocolates, I got chocolates” he’s yelling and jumping. But I noticed Pat had a worried look on her face. So here’s ryan yelling, and my mother in law frowning, and it all becomes clear why she’s upset when he opens the chocolates box and pulls out a pair of pajamas.
“Chocolates?” he says.
I think this is what happens to us when we put all of our hopes in gifts or things under the tree, when we forget about family and stuff, and instead replace family with stuff.
You remember the story of Christmas, right? Of the baby Jesus, born to a virgin in a barn in Israel. Of how god himself came to the earth in the form of an infant?
I love what bono says about all of this: “the idea that god, if there is a force of love and logic in the universe, would seek to explain itself is amazing enough…but the poetry of becoming a child born in straw and poverty is god - unknowable love, unknowable power - describing itself as being most vulnerable.”
Christmas is the time when we see god walking among us. When we see him dressed as a Santa Claus collecting change for the poor, or on tv asking for hurricane relief. Christmas is the time when we realize most that he loves us and is looking for every opportunity to be among us, to walk among us, and to demonstrate that love. Christmas is the time where god also invites us to participate with him in goodness and mercy, in creativity.
Our god is a god of creativity, after all and he wants us to create things. There is an ancient Jewish proverb that asks why, if god wanted us to eat bread, he didn’t give us a bread tree? And the answer is that he wanted us to make bread, to create it from wheat and flour, to participate with him in creation.
Christmas is a wonderful time for us to ask how we might participate with god in the redemption of our world in love to all mankind. Christmas is a time for us to imagine how our world might be different and how we might help make it better