Ryan and I were doing some last minute running around for Christmas late afternoon yesterday. I was driving. For those of you who have witnessed my driving either sitting shotgun next to me or roadside, in fear, you know this is an area in my life for which I need to practice some serious patience. Road “rage” is strong; Road “let’s go, people…find the gas petal already!” is not.
And it only gets worse this time of year. The streets are clogged with people frantically trying to get to and fro – the busyness, the never-ending lists, the anticipation and expectations overwhelming their lives. We all know it’s coming and yet we inexplicably fall victim to the heightened sensory commotion that surrounds us leading up to December 25th.
At one point, I looked over at my white-knuckled husband and stated the obvious: “This is ridiculous. We are misreckoning everything about Christmas right now.”
He and I both kind of breathed this sigh of recognizable relief in tandem (not uncommon as we literally break out in both song and statement in response to stuff all the time – I call him a thief; he calls me an angel – obviously), as my foot eased off the gas petal and his eyes went from skittishly squinting to cautiously opened.
Every year I try to slow down, take it all in, and remember the real and unassailable reason for this time of year. And about 23 hours of every crazy day between Thanksgiving and Christmas I fail. But right now, at 4:20am in the morning, I am remembering in full.
Christmas has nothing to do with frantic shopping or ugly sweaters and instead has everything to do with love. And yes, the birth of Jesus.
Did I tell you guys that at my twentieth high-school reunion (which, as bad math would have it, was over five years ago – whatever about that) multiple people came up to me in clear and presumable shock and asked, “Are you like, some kind of Jesus freak now?”
I laughed. Mind you, I understood where their question was coming from, as these were individuals who had known me since I was five-years old and watched me do things that were “Un-Christian-like.” We had all grown up in a Mellencamp small town right alongside one another, finding ornery and sometimes illegal ways (just slightly, like misdemeanor-ish) to pass those almost eighteen years of both boredom and sophomoric understandings about what really mattered – including anything about God.
But here’s the deal: it’s not 1989 anymore and Jesus being born is something to celebrate.
Whether you’re “Christian” or not, the fact is that God sent his son into this world to be with us as an act of atonement. This guy named William Tyndale (1494-1536) was translating the Bible and since there was no word back then for “reconciliation” he used the word atonement which is based on 3 words:
“at”… “one” …“ment”
Atonement means bringing us into unity and relationship with God. Through Jesus (his life, death, and resurrection) we are saved from sin and united with (or reconciled to) God. We are “at one ment” with God because Jesus was born and became fully human.
So yeah, His birth is definitely worth celebrating this time of year. While we frantically try to buy or make the perfect gift for people we know, as well as for people we’ve never met but who we know need things, let’s not lose sight of what really matters and what we all need: spending time with, being at one ment with, each other.
How many times have you heard “I don’t need anything, I just want to be with everyone” from your aging parents? From your friends and their families? Or maybe you’re the one who grew up in the ‘80’s and is saying it about your college-aged kid who has been away at school and all you want for Christmas is to be reconciled to her…in unity and in relationship with her…for a couple weeks?
For as much as we are in a hurry, overlooking those who need a hand, a shoulder, or literally nothing other than our time and attention, is it really that hard to just slow down and remember what really matters?
‘Cause I guarantee you it’s not a gift you can wrap.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). –Matthew 1:18-2:23