Christmas is a season for remembering, right? Who of us has not sat down and spent a few moments in nostalgia for Christmases past? We look at old photos, listen to favorite stories and songs, remember grand-parents, parents or other loved-ones no longer with us, and we recall all of our favorite memories of things like snow, presents, laughter, etc.
And don’t we use all of these fond memories as the benchmarks by which we judge how well Christmas is shaping up this year? We may say to ourselves: “Christmas would be better IF it was like it used to be”, “Christmas would be better if things didn’t change”, “Christmas just isn’t the same anymore”.
Yes, there certainly are Christmas joys and experiences that were wonderful and are now gone. There are people whom we loved deeply and they are no longer with us. It’s OK for us to grieve these things. But, if we are only always looking backwards and judging the present by the past, we can never fully enter the joy and wonder of what God is doing right NOW.
No one expected the messiah to come the way Jesus came into the world. Everyone’s expectations were fixed on the great prophecies and traditions of the past: The messiah would come as a powerful warrior king with God’s invincible spirit and set the Israelites free from the oppression of Roman military occupation. With that in their hearts and minds it was very easy to miss the baby born in the stable yard and enter into the joy and wonder of what God was doing in the present:
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)
Christmas is a time to allow God to lead us into the joy of the present… and that joy begins with His presence with us now!