Can you believe it? 2020 is almost over, AND Christmas is almost here. Double whammy. Double blessing. As I’ve driven around town, it seems like more people have put up outdoor Christmas lights than usual, and stores started their Christmas promotions even earlier than in previous years. Maybe this is because people are just ready to put the pandemic behind them and move on with some semblance of normalcy this Christmas.
In the midst of our cultural Christmas of consumption and the realization that, like this past Thanksgiving, most of us will not be able to have quite the normal extended-family-Christmas gatherings, I’m reminded of the starkness of the Christmas story in the Gospels.
A remote place. A poor couple. A birth unannounced except to some weary shepherds and eventual star-gazing travelers. An unplanned pregnancy. A young girl’s prayer, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This is not quite the “Niewfields’ Winterlights” extravaganza that we’ve grown accustomed to.
Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. C. S. Lewis wrote about the simplicity amidst complexity in God’s plan, “The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear—a Jewish girl at her prayers” (God in the Dock, p. 84).
Maybe there’s a silver lining with COVID this Christmas. Maybe the hustle and bustle of the season will give way to more peace and reflection. Maybe our interrupted family plans will give way to a renewed focus on God’s grand interruption by taking on human flesh.
George Herbert, 17th-century poet and Anglican priest, once wrote,
“The God of power, as he did ride
In his majestic robes of glorie
Resolv’d to light; and so one day
He did descend, undressing all the way.”
My hope and prayer for you this Christmas is that disappoint turns to delight, confusion turns to celebration, and that worry turns to worship. Let’s make this our prayer,
“O! hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the Angels sing.
O ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.”
--Edmund Sears, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” 1849.