Now what? Christmas is over. The jolly, rotund, red–suited one from the North Pole is back home, snoozing in front of the fire, savouring time off after another busy year. Perhaps he sips slowly from a drink. His suit has been to the cleaners, and now it hangs ready for next year.
Maybe he has given his elves the week off. Hmmm … I wonder what kind of employment standards they have at the North Pole.
In our homes, the tree (if you still use a real tree for Christmas) is beginning to look a little bedraggled. The tinsel droops; a few ornaments have fallen off and lay scattered amid the fallen needles on the floor around the tree holder. Here and there, a few bits of wrapping paper rest, reminding us that once they held something of promise.
The chocolate boxes are mostly empty. A few leftover bits of turkey linger in the fridge, waiting to be finished off. After a few days of eating them, you are beginning to wonder why you ever thought you liked turkey leftovers.
Outside the back door, garbage bags filled with gift wrap and cardboard boxes wait. They are a silent reminder that you still need to take them to the recycling bins. Even thinking about doing that just tires you out. And, of course, it will soon be time to pack away the decorations for next year’s festivity.
You’ve looked at the gifts you received and put them away. You may have already used the gift cards in the after–Christmas frenzy in the mall, or it sits quietly in your wallet, waiting to be used for that special item. Maybe when the stores are not so busy …
Now what? Is that all there is?
Well … yeah. Really, that’s it. It was fun while it lasted, but now it’s time to get back to life. The Santa story doesn’t really last beyond the day.
And what about this story of a manger … is it like the other? Do the shepherds go back to their fields, going on with life as if everything else had never happened? Do the magi retrace their steps to their Eastern country? Do Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth with their bundled up baby boy?
Well … yes and no.
Yes, we do go back to our everyday lives, to our normal routines and work and school and leisure activities. Everything goes back to normal, and part of us breathes a sigh of relief. We couldn’t handle this level of festivity on a regular basis.
But more importantly, this story changes something in us. It changes our lives and our world. Whenever and wherever the Christ is born in us and among us, it changes who we are, it changes our loyalties and our priorities, it changes the way we look at life.
The birth of Jesus in the world is partly the story of two kingdoms which are in conflict with each other. About 25 years before the birth of Christ, Caesar proclaimed himself emperor of the Roman Empire. He announced that he had brought peace and justice to the whole world, and named himself Saviour and Son of God. He demanded to be worshipped as Lord of all.
About 40 years later, in a little backwater town in a troublesome little province of the empire, a boy was born. As Luke tells the story, he uses the same titles Caesar had taken for himself. He did so deliberately. Luke declared that this child is the true Saviour, the real Lord: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is … the Lord.” And this angel is joined by a choir which sings of the “peace on earth” which is wrought by this Lord.
In a generation, this humble peasant child would be hailed as “son of God”, “Saviour of the world”. People would follow him and call him “Lord”. They would come to believe that with this child’s arrival, true justice and peace was brought to the world.
This is part of the change wrought by this story. Where are you going to see your lord? In the peace which Caesar brought through military might and violence? Or in this Galilean Jewish peasant who brought peace through love and compassion?
Who would have known that God would come to earth and become vulnerable?
To understand this, it seems to me, has huge implications for how we live. That’s where the change comes in the way we conduct ourselves. God bless you as you live out the love and vulnerability of this wonderful story.
Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook