It is officially and wonderfully Christmas time, everyone! This is my favourite time in the whole year. I love the music (the good music, not just the constant flow of radio Christmas songs), the decorations, the gatherings... And I can barely type for staring at the twinkle lights on our humble little tree!
There is something about twinkle lights. They are like very small bits of happiness- or maybe they just remind you of happiness. Each little lamp seems confident in its own bit of light, assured of all that is hopeful. One light does not compare itself to its neighbors, but does its own shining and twinkling in a bold though silent sort of celebration. That's how I feel about twinkle lights. Perhaps my feelings partially depend upon the fact that when I was a child, I pretended they were fairies hiding in my Christmas tree (what little girl does not delight in the idea of lovely small ladies with sparkly wings and gowns?). Squinting a little bit, it was as though I could see a vague outline of them, winking mysteriously at me from across the room. (This effect was especially good when the lights were different colors- which made it rather like Fantasia.)
Maybe it is a little unorthodox to perceive so much depth in something common like twinkle lights. After all, they are plastic and in actual fact, quite faulty. But even though abstract ideas about the simple and the tangible can stretch the truth, I think they often help reach toward the truth as well. In this case, at least, I feel this way.
On Sunday, Paul preached about Christmas. Sort of. His theme for this series on advent is "Not what we expect but everything we need." He built the message on the text in Isaiah 9:1-7 in which the author says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Lights make up such a huge part of the Christmas season, whether they decorate a house or a window display or a tree. Yet Christians remember the light of Christ, a light which is the centerpiece of our lives, not merely an ornament or decoration.
Though I have learned that before, Paul articulated a truth about Christmas which I have never quite formed in my mind, but which resonated deeply in me. First, he talked about how the first part of advent is focusing on the waiting, the anticipation, of a Savior. We have all waited our whole lives to be completed, to be made whole, and Jesus is God's plan to bring wholeness to our brokenness, light to our darkness. Yet we don't like to wait. During the Christmas season, though we wait until Christmas day to open presents, we "gorge ourselves on the holiday". That is so true. Ryan pointed out a couple weeks ago that Christmas decorations were out in our Walmart the DAY after Halloween!!! That's ridiculous! And who really remembers Thanksgiving when all their energies are channeled into waiting desperately outside a store the for hours on Black Friday, rushing around attempting to find the best deals first.
It's a frenzy, and some times the whole month of December is like that. What about the mystery? What about the wonder of God? Where is the hush that falls over a groaning creation when it is reminded of good news- tidings of comfort and joy? Paul compared the frenzy, the gorging, to driving on the road when the sun is so bright you can see almost nothing else. That is what Christmas becomes- not the real Christmas- but the frenzy, the desperation, the eating of sweets and the guilt that follows, the plastic, the office parties, the tense family get-togethers, the shopping, the debt, and then... the let-down. Who feels comforted when they are in the midst of such pouring out and filling up? No wonder people are depressed after the holidays.
And if the only lights you see are the baubles, the bargains, and the bright gaudy acoutrements of a season gone berserk, then of course you will miss the small light in the stable- you will miss Bethlehem, and you will miss the comfort and the joy. "If you expect merely what you've always had, you'll get it; if you expect the Christmas you've always known, that is what will come." This different kind of Christmas that Paul reminded us of, is what we need. We are the "Christmas people"; we are the bringers (or at least the spreaders) of Good News. I pray that this will fill you up this season, that you will feast on hope and joy- on the gifts of the Lord, and that you will remember what you are really waiting for.
"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:30-32 NIV)