The weather outside has finally turned cold. For me, that can mean one thing only: Christmas! I have caught the Christmas spirit, as I always do this time of year.
Of course, for those of us who order our year by the seasons of the church year, Christmas is preceded by Advent, the season in which we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ — both our annual celebration of his first coming some 2,000 years ago and ultimately his final coming in glory at the end of this sinful age.
Still, the world around me is decorated green and red, lights adorn houses, mall stores are almost unbearably (and wonderfully) crowded, and Christmas music drowns out all others. Advent may be important, but the season right after it is on my mind. Let’s get to Christmas!
Our world’s celebration of Christmas has grown into something almost too big to handle, and as I think about that, I’m reminded of how different the first Christmas would have been.
The first Christmas was actually made up of a bunch of little things that would have been insignificant on their own but when put together added up to the most celebrated of all holidays. Just consider:
Jesus’ parents: The Virgin Mary and her husband, Joseph, were rather humble in stature, certainly not people for whom you’d beat down the door for an interview.
The shepherds: Those who were first to hear of Jesus’ birth were considered the lowliest on the social ladder of the day.
The town of Jesus’ birth: Bethlehem wasn’t anything to write home about, either, just a small stopover village on the way to much larger Jerusalem.
And as for Jesus himself: He was a baby. You can’t get much smaller than that.
Yes, the first Christmas was full of things too little for one’s attention. But those things had God’s attention, as he used them to bring a Savior to the world.
God still uses little things to save today. Water is a little thing. We drink it and wash in it every day. Yet God uses it to wash us in his word and make us his children in holy baptism.
Bread and wine certainly don’t draw anyone’s attention, either, unless you’re kneeling at a church altar with these words ringing joyfully in your ear:
“The body of Christ, given for you; the blood of Christ, shed for you.”
When received in the Holy Supper of our Lord, bread and wine hold our attention like no other, for they are the wrapping paper — Christmas wrapping paper, if you will — God uses to give to us the body and blood of Jesus, which we receive for the forgiveness of our sins.
With those involved in the first Christmas, and also with us, God uses the littlest things to make us big in his eyes; He uses things of this world to make us part of His.
When you think of it that way, perhaps Christmas is a big thing after all. For in the birth of God’s son, the Creator joined Himself to His creation; the creator became a creature! He did that to take upon himself our sin, and with His life, death, and resurrection from the dead restore us and all creation to God.
Beginning with the birth of Jesus Christ, almighty God became like us that we might become like him (1 John 3:2). That is a pretty big thing, the big thing that is the true meaning of Christmas.
Let that big thing be what occupies your minds this Christmas, and find yourself a place to worship. You’re welcome to join us at Faith Lutheran at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve, or find yourself another church in the area that worships Christ — there are many of them. Take time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Unlike the version our world has created, it will stay with you long after Christmas is over.
The Rev. William Daniel O’Connor is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.