When I was a child, how I wished that Christmas would never end: no school, a lot of presents, food and toys and people were very nice, thoughtful, caring and patient with each other.
But when I lost my two front teeth and grew up a little bit more, I realized that Christmas in this world is not forever. I had to go back to school and study for the tests. My toys no longer looked appealing to me. Food had run out. And people were no longer nice, no longer thoughtful, no longer giving and no longer patient. Welcome to the real world!
To this real world of pain, indifference, struggle and coldness was born the baby Jesus. And the first melodies the angels sang echoed through all generations, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.”
Peace. On that first Christmas, the hearts of people huddled in the coldness of the night were seeking for peace. On that first Christmas, those who were seeking warmth in the inn, where Joseph and Mary came knocking, were in search of peace. On that first Christmas, those who were waiting for their Savior for centuries past were in need of peace.
Their search for peace could also be our own search for peace now. Their difficulties and challenges could also be our own. Their questions could also be our own questions.
How do we react to a world that seems to be so hard, so indifferent and so cold? How do we react to a life that seems to be filled with difficulties, pain and struggle?
On Christmas day, the men of goodwill found a kind of peace that the world could not give. A peace gives us firmness and certainty when we are in need of faith, confidence and reliability when we are in need of hope, acceptance and understanding when we are lacking in love.
With peace comes joy. On that first Christmas, those who were in the inn had no reason to be joyful. They were a people conquered and oppressed. They were a people shackled and governed by foreigners. On that first Christmas, they tried to forget their troubles. Perhaps they had a drink or two or three or four. Because Bethlehem could be cold during winter.
That still sounds true in our times. Alcohol can warm our bodies, but can never warm our hearts. During the holidays, are not more people depressed than at any other time of the year? During the holidays, do we not eat more, drink more, party more than at any other time of the year? During the holidays, do people take their own lives than at any other time of the year? Are we searching for joy in the wrong places?
Dr. Seuss had the story about the Grinch. On Christmas morning, the people of Whoville joined hands and began to sing and rejoice. The Grinch may have stolen their Christmas trees, tinsels, lights and dinners and hid them all in a cave. But he was not able to steal their Christmas spirit.
Christmas joy comes from a God who is so in love with us that He gave His son to live among us. The best and the first Christmas happened when God revealed to us the essence of his love in the person of Jesus. Christmas is our reminder that God loves us.
The best Christmas gift we could ever give is the gift of ourselves for Jesus. All the presents we share, the songs we sing, and the cards we exchange are not just reminders of the gifts we have in the person of Jesus, but are reminders of the gifts we are to each other.
And the best Christmas gift we could ever receive in our lives is the comforting presence of Jesus. God is not through with us yet. He does not want to produce a religious nut. What He wants is a spiritual fruit. He is still writing the Gospel, the good News of our lives.
Christmas is a process. It does not end today. When we never stop giving, when we never stop receiving and when we never stop celebrating, peace, joy and love will prevail and last.
In heaven, Christmas will be forever.
25 December 2009