“All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.'” —Matthew 1:23
And so, Christmas is finally here. All the stress of preparation. All the planning, travel, gift buying. All the craziness of the season has led up to this moment: exhaustion. Whether you’re just getting back from midnight services or are settling down for a ‘long winter’s nap’ after a busy evening of preparation, you are often likely to experience the actual Christmas day as somewhat anticlimactic. For once all the packages have been ripped open, and the cookies and eggnog drunk, there can come a sense of let-down. Perhaps, that is because we hype Christmas so much as an event and don’t think of it as a way of life.
Now, I am not suggesting that we keep the trees up year round or sing carols in July (though I know a few of you who would more than willingly do exactly that). I am talking about the central message of Christmas as the governing principle of our lives: solidarity. For that’s what Christmas really is about—a declaration of God’s solidarity with us. Christ comes to us as God’s presence in our midst, the Word made Flesh. The Immanuel: “God is with us.”
Perhaps Christmas is prone to let downs because we keep expecting something wondrous. And often, Christmas is exactly that. But what happens on December 26th? Is our sense of wonder still intact? When the radio stations stop playing Christmas music and return to soft rock and the CVS starts stocking up on Valentine’s Day cards, is it easy for us to stay in the Christmas sprit?
But the real story of Christmas is that God is with us not only in the times of celebration and splendor, in the festivals and the parties, but in the drudgery and the ordinary. God is with us not just during the Twelve Days of Christmas, but throughout the cold, snowy winter as well. God is with us through all the seasons of our lives, however dark or drear they may be. That is the true story of Christmas, not that God came to us as a poor, lowly child, but that God stays with us all the days of our lives.
So, the excitement and the energy of the Christmas holiday may wane once we have finally crashed on that couch late Christmas day, but the power of Christmas is ours to proclaim our whole lives long.
Rev Mark A. Schaefer
United Methodist Chaplain