I love greeting people with “Merry Christmas” after the day itself has passed.
Most people are surprised—probably thinking that I slept through the celebration. Many Christians, however, respond with their own best wishes, in recognition that the celebration of Jesus’ nativity marks the beginning of a season of wonder.
The celebration of the Incarnation miracle is far too wondrous to be confined to a single day.
People often ask “how was your Christmas?” By that, most are inquiring as to whether it was enjoyable.
It is a profound question, if one truly reflects upon it.
As a child, I must confess that the quality of my “Christmas” was probably determined to large extent by the presents I received. I don’t remember many of the particular gifts—these many years later—but I do recall the anticipation I felt as we awaited Christmas Day and the glorious unwrapping.
As a parish pastor my perceptions of a “good” Christmas were determined in large part by the number and enthusiasm of the individuals attending the season’s special worship services. (I am not proud, of course, to confess this.)
In later, semi-retired days, I gauge the joy of each Christmas by the time spent with family. To have all the kids and grandkids near is magnificent. To be able to connect with our “extended family” is icing on the cake.
Obviously, I’m not alone in measuring the quality of my “Christmas experience” by the presence of family.
At the close of the First World War, as C.S. Lewis had finished recuperating from his wounds, he longed to be able to return home to Ireland to celebrate with his father and brother. The Armistice had been signed a month earlier, but delays prevented his arrival by December 25th. Nevertheless, he did manage to arrive for the Christmas season, as Warnie recorded in his diary two days later.
A red letter day. We were sitting in the study about eleven o’clock this morning when we saw a cab coming up the avenue. It was Jack! He had been demobilized, thank God. Needless to say there were great doings. He is looking pretty fit . . . In the evening there was bubbly for dinner in honour of the event: the first time I have ever had champagne at home.
Family can be a wonderful thing, although there seem to be an increasing number of people in our day who are a scourge to their families. My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones, or who have never experienced familial love in the first place.
These holiday seasons—filled with laughter and champagne for most—can be a barren emotional wasteland for many.
It is good for us all to remember that fact, and remain vigilant to draw the lonely into the light of our family campfires.
The Deep Joy of Christmas
I have said that as a child, I relished the anticipation of my gifts. Later in life I have focused on other matters in assessing whether or not my Christmas has been an exceptional one.
The fact is that the foundation for all of my happiness comes from an awareness of Christmas’ true meaning.
In a word, Emmanuel. God with us.
For me and my family, it simply would not be Christmas if we were not able to gather with our sisters and brothers in Christ to celebrate Jesus’ birth. That said, for believers in some Islamic and Buddhist nations where Christians are not free, the miracle of Christmas rings no less true.
The presence of the Holy Spirit, and the constancy of Christ’s grace are such an indivisible part of my life, that I often take them for granted. And so it is during Christmas.
The gift-giving and family can occupy the forefront of my thoughts. However, it is only because of the life-giving sacrifice of that innocent Child that events in this life possess the potential to have eternal significance.
Jesus came in humility. He came to serve. He came to suffer. He came to offer his own pure life to redeem our imperfect and corrupt lives.
That’s what Christmas is about, and that is why it is too wondrous for its celebration to be relegated to one brief day.