You know, after the giant celebration of Christmas Eve last night, which some of you were at, it seems like today is just sort of drab in comparison. Last night we had candles, lots of music, special presentations, even a baptism during the day. I know, I know, the baptism was actually on the 4th Sunday of Advent, not Christmas Eve, but hey, it happened within the same 24 hour period.
Even the week leading up to today was probably busy for most of us here. We had preparations to make, gifts to wrap, sermons to write. It was a busy time for all. And for my family, some school administrator out there in their infinite wisdom thought that it would be a great idea to put the school Christmas concert just a few days before Christmas. And as luck would have it, seeing as how my three kids are in three different classes, we had three different concerts to go to in a matter of two days. Three concerts in two days. You know what that’s like? That’s like preaching three sermons in two days.
So it seems like all the hustle and bustle, all the running around and stress, all the really big church services and Christmas concerts… all happen before Christmas even comes. I mean here we are, with about 80% less people than last night, no musical presentations, and the bare minimum of lit candles, today just seems a lot less of a production. And that’s weird, because well, today is Christmas, yesterday was just the evening before. I mean, that is kind of the definition of “yesterday” after all. Today is the day that we actually celebrate the birth of Christ. Today is the actual day that we have been looking forward to. Today is the day that we typically spend with family, friends, loved ones, and feel the joy of the season. Today is the culmination of all the preparation, waiting, and hope of the past 4 weeks of Advent, of Christmas Eve, lighting this wreath, everything. And all we get is just a much smaller crowd, a much more ordinary and regular service, and the same old preacher who might be preaching the same sermon from a few years ago. Hey, you never know.
But is that a bad thing? Is it a bad thing that Christmas Day is less of a production? Is it a bad thing that we seem to get fewer and fewer people out on Christmas Day with each passing year? It is a bad thing that Christmas Day seems to only fall in the shadow of the great celebration of Christmas Eve?
Well, is it?
No, just kidding, that actually was a rhetorical question. I would say no, it isn’t a bad thing. Why not (also rhetorical)? Well because Jesus’ birth wasn’t exactly a big hoopla either. It wasn’t a widely attended event with fanfare and cheering crowds. It wasn’t a big production with lots of music and candles. In fact, if it weren’t for a couple shepherds who decided to follow the instructions of these strange interstellar beings, no one would have been there except for Mary, Joseph, and a few farm animals and their pleasant smells. No, Jesus’ actual birth wasn’t a big deal at all. A little less than ordinary and hardly noticeable to anyone.
But that didn’t make it a bad thing. Instead, it paints for us the perfect backdrop for all that Jesus is, in his humble service, in his boundless compassion, and in his selfless love. Jesus doesn’t ask for all the hoopla, although we do it anyway. Jesus doesn’t ask for the giant production, although we look forward to it anyway. Jesus doesn’t even really ask for us to recognise his birth, but yet here we are on a Monday morning, remembering.
All Jesus asks of us is to remember his love. Remember his grace. Remember his body broken for us, the new covenant in his blood, and the welcome and forgiveness he showed the stranger.
And we do that. We are reminded of that every time we come to church, Christmas or not. We are reminded of that every time we take communion. We are reminded of that every time we look into the face of a stranger, relative, loved one, or acquaintance, and see God’s love at work in them and around them, as we see God’s love at work in and around us.
So it is ok that this Christmas service is a much smaller scale. It is ok that it is cozier, more intimate, and more contemplative than last night. It is ok that so few of us are here, together worshipping and remembering Christ, quietly meditating on the words of scripture, and being reminded of who we are and what we are doing here.
It would be nice if there were more here though, huh?
But there aren’t, and that is ok. I am glad that we have what we have, and that God has given what God has given. In that all that we are, all that we do, and all that we see, have all been lovingly created by God, fulfilling God’s will of love, grace and mercy, and giving us all this sense of community, welcome, and inclusion in the still and quiet humility of our Lord.
Because really, that is Christmas. That is Christ entering into our world and into our lives. That is Christ showing us the beauty in the ordinary, the plain, the quiet mundane everyday life.
That’s not to say that yesterday’s bigger celebration was a waste or even sacrilegious, no, not by a long shot. But it is to say that God is here, now, with us in the quiet just as God is with us in the loud. God is here, now, with us in the ordinary and usual, just as God is with us in big productions. God is here, now, with us in the slow and calm, just as God is with us in the hustle and bustle. And that, to me, knowing that God is with us, promised to us, and chooses to live as one of us, that is what makes it a Christmas celebration. That as we in a few moments together share God’s peace, share God’s gifts, and then share God’s blessing and unity, we can know and tangibly see God in this place, revealing to us God’s love, and showing us all that God is with us in our community, in our relationships, in our service, and in the bread and wine we share. God with us, one of us, blessing us, loving and forgiving us, now and forever.
In this Christmas season, may we see the beauty of God’s love in the quiet and in the loud, in the still and in the moving, in community and in solitude, and may we trust that God with us, Immanuel, has been given to us this day and always. Thanks be to God. Amen.