Monday, November 28, 2011

A Safe Season?

Have we made Christmas too safe?

That’s what I’ve been wondering this season. Has Christmas become a predictable mish-mash of traditions that have been separated from the earth-shattering power of the incarnation?I’m not bashing Christmas traditions, you realize. When it comes to Christmas traditions, I’m all in favor.

My family dives into Christmas traditions – the tree, the lights, the nativity sets, special dinner, family time – the works! So I’m not belittling these things at all.

I’m just wondering, is it all too safe? And what do I even mean by safe?

Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not entirely sure. I’m just reading the words of the prophets and noticing some fairly cataclysmic language. The heavens being torn open, the mountains quaking, the nations trembling, valleys being lifted up, mountains being made low, and that kind of stuff.

Earth shattering. Powerful. Transformative.

If by “safe” we mean innocuous, secure from risk, stable … well, the only thing “stable” about Christmas was the place Jesus was born.

The birth of Jesus changed everything.

God. Became. Human.

The thought should stagger you. The first inkling of understanding as to what the incarnation truly means should feel like a bolt of lightning electrifying your soul. The sheer power of Christmas scatters the proud, brings down the powerful, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry, and empties the rich, as Mary sings in Luke 1.

Have we somehow hidden that behind a big inflatable lawn Santa that plays “You Better Watch Out” over and over again? Are we so blinded by the glare of strings of computer programmed LED strings that we can’t see the light of the world any more? Is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra drowning out the sound of the voice of Zion up on the mountain announcing the presence of God?

This Christmas, don’t be safe. Take a risk. Do something you’ve never done before, for the sake of Jesus. Honor the birth of Christ by continuing the mission he inaugurated.

This Christmas, change the world.

(This is my offering for this year's Advent Devotion book published by Campbell UMC. The devotion book is online again this year, and can be accessed and subscribed to by clicking right here.)


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Andy. Don't know if I can do that. I am so accustomed to and so grateful for the gentle peace of Christmas Eve that I hope you don't think I need to give it up. How about if I feel all the power, the electricity, the soul-shattering awarenesses the rest of the Christian year and save Christmas for peace and joy? See you on the Plaza Dec 16! Mom

filmfan28 said...

I have to admit, I have been thinking a lot over the last two days about your sermon, and this issue in particular. I am not sure I have really come up with any strong conclusions. For one thing, I love my traditions, going to Grandma’s every Christmas, and being told that no presents can be opened until its dark. Attending midnight (or as close to it as possible) Christmas Eve service. Waking up early Christmas morning, and sitting with my sister on our knees in the middle of the hallway waiting for our parents to wake up. It has all become so routine. In some ways that’s what I love about Christmas, that no matter what I always know what the next move is going to be.

However, I am forced to realize as well, that Christmas is about something very “un-routine”. Its about the world being shaken at its very core by the presence of something the world could never imagine.

“It is just that...I think that some things are meant to be broken. Imperfect. Chaotic. It’s the universe’s way of providing some contrast, you know? There have to be a few holes in the road. That’s how life is.”-Sarah Dessen

I think in certain cases this is how our faith is supposed to be. In the passages mentioned, the forces are not only powerful, but often destructive, with the skies torn apart, the mountains quaking. In this story, things have to be broken before they can be fixed, just like us. We have to accept our own problems and sins, and only then when we are so broken that we can barely take it anymore, is when our chaotic, imperfect selves, can fall away. The story itself is one of imperfection. In a “perfect” world, baby Jesus would have at least been born in a room instead of a barn, would have been placed in a bed instead of a feeding trough. It was God’s way of providing contrast though. If he had been any normal child, born in a normal manner, and living a normal life, he would have been forgotten. It is the imperfection of the story, the chaoticness of the life he led, that forces us to remember him as more than just some random guy who lived a normal life.