Have you ever noticed that what’s the same year after year is not always the same year after year? Have you noticed how fresh & new something so old and familiar as Christmas can feel?
Think about the way God paints beauty into His magnificent creations. He will often repeat a theme or a subject (that daffodil, that cloud, that sunrise, that snowflake, that wave), but each time we experience it, it’s unique in some way. Isn’t it in the moment of revelation and awakening of those things that the blaze of beauty catches our breath? Seeing a photo of a blue-green wave cresting is wonderful, but it’s not the same as seeing the wave. God’s extravagant displays of love and glory are meant to be tasted in real time, today, in this moment we breathe by His grace.
We may try to immortalize those moments, but we really can’t. The beauty is not a thing we can set in stone, but something that disappears as quickly as we look away. We turn to look again, and it’s gone. Those flowers we marvel at wilt away, the cloud drifts or changes into some other fantastic shape, the sunrise warms to noonday, the snowflake melts, and the wave crashes. We’re not meant to immortalize beauty in photos or recordings, but be reminded by the photo to look for it again, now, in the growing, ever-changing world we live in today.
And so we come to times like Christmas.
The same artists sing the same tunes over and over again on the radio or TV. In those repetitions, they’re like the photos we take, trying to catch the essence or beauty and grace we see and frame in a picture forever. But after a week or two, we start to get bored by it all – and maybe we should.
What makes Christmas come alive again, as ours did this year? Somebody said they had been challenged to concentrate on giving presence, not presents to their friends and family. I believe the clue to enjoying every long-held, cherished tradition lies hidden in that encouragement.
- This Christmas morning I realize that although most of our Christmas décor is out of a trunk, it is never put on display in the same way. My wife Julia, in her zeal to put herself into the holiday reflects her Creator in this. She changes the old décor into something new by fitting it to our present space and tastes. The main tree has a different theme. The furniture and the candles are arranged in different spots. And so everywhere I look, I see her – her touch, her grace, her enthusiasm for bringing the traditions forward into this moment once again.
- Yesterday, we enjoyed such an awesome Christmas Eve together – in all three services and a reception, from the morning worship hour until midnight candlelight Communion! What struck me is how fresh & new something so old and familiar can feel. Last night when our church pianist played old carols, they seemed new, and then I realized they were! They were new to THAT moment, just as the precious awareness of Christ’s love was again new to THAT moment, and this moment, and the next…
How does Christmas live again?
Christmas is as fresh and unique as the people who give it to the world today. The only way for Christmas to live again is to make it a living, in-the-moment experience, with all the love and energy and faith we can pour into it. We don’t just look at the nativity set on the mantle. We go out into the cold night to gaze in wonder at the “Living” Nativity. We don’t just listen to the carols played and sung again and again on the radio, we go to church and hear them FIRST HAND sung by newly assembled choirs and older, more humble church musicians. We don’t pretend to enjoy gift-giving like we always have, we today mold our gifts to the way our loved ones are today – those grandsons that are now a year older, those shut-ins that can no longer get out to see the Living Nativity.
I love the vision of an eternity with the Lord that rests on the foundation of beauty – beauty that’s always new. In the introduction to the eternal kingdom of Christ we’re told God makes all things new, in that moment, forever. We can’t be bored then, when God displays His beauty in eternal glory because it will be a living, breathing forever new thing!
And surely we don’t have to be bored today. Christmas can be a thing of beauty again, if only we’ll stop settling for simply repeating and begin reliving, today.
For further inspiration along these lines, check out Pastor Dirk Gieser’s Christmas Eve message at http://www.ercrca.org/sermons.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ 5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.'” Revelation 21:4-6 (NIV)
“Remember” in the Bible: God instructed His people to remember days like the Sabbath and annual events like the Passover – as though they were living it for the first time. “The Hebrew word for remembering is zakhor, meaning “you shall call to mind.” It means more than merely recalling something in the past, but suggests actively focusing the mind upon something in the present.” (www.hebrew4christians.com)