Here we are, Christmas, pretty much the last big event before we head into 2018. And not just any last event, for many especially here in Canada, this is the event of all events, the holiday of all holidays, the culmination of the entire year and the final judgement on who has been naughty and who has been nice. It all boils down to this. No pressure or anything. No seriously, the pressure was yesterday when I wrote this thing, none today though.
But nothing really compares with Christmas for us Canadians, does it? We go through the year and we have different holidays and some we like and some we don’t and some we don’t even understand (like Labour Day, what is that all about? Celebrating labour?). We have commemorations, anniversaries, and different ways to remember past events. And more or less, they all make sense. We commemorate people who have done great things and made the world a better place like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Queen Victoria, and apparently, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. We celebrate anniversaries on big events on our lives, like this year we had Canada’s 150th and the 500th of the Lutheran Reformation, oh and also Winnie and I celebrated our 10th anniversary (yes, thank you). We look at these events, and they make sense. I mean, we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr for all his work in the civil rights movement of course, and Queen Victoria for being the Mother of the Canadian Confederation, and the Rock for… you know… making lots of movies here in Vancouver. But those people did something, some like the Rock got paid way way more than others to do it, but hey, they still did something and we now commemorate them for their accomplishments. That makes sense.
Anniversaries are usually to celebrate something big as well. Something great that has happened and we want to remember it year after year. Canada being the country in which we live and I assume we love or at least just hate less than the States, and it being 150 is a big thing. The Lutheran Reformation that has shaped the face of the Christian Protestant Church today is a big one too, I mean 500 years of the church doing its thing for people and teaching and proclaiming God’s good news and love. And our wedding anniversary, well I should say 10 years of putting up with me is quite a feat. It all makes sense to celebrate these things, because they are big things, huge accomplishments, and deserve to be remembered.
But you know what we celebrate pretty much every year that doesn’t make too much sense to me though (besides Labour Day)? Birthdays. Don’t get me wrong, birthdays are great excuses to get together with friends and family and get more gifts. But someone once made a remark about birthdays that changed my view of them forever. Someone once asked, “why do you get gifts on your birthday? You didn’t do anything, your mom should be getting gifts.”
Right? I don’t know how many of you have been lucky enough to be in the delivery room when this miracle of childbirth happens, or perhaps some of you experienced child birth yourselves, but it doesn’t seem all that pleasant. It looked like a lot of hard work, and it definitely sounded very painful. But it’s the child that gets the gifts on the anniversary of that day? Doesn’t really make sense.
But we do it. Year after year parents go all out planning elaborate parties, inviting droves of people, buying expensive cakes to celebrate this day in which the person we are celebrating didn’t do anything at all. The doctors, nurses, midwives, medical staff, doulas, mothers, and at apparently very small scale, fathers, did all the work. The kid? Not so much. They just were born. Probably cried a little. Or a lot. And then had some milk if you were lucky. And then pooped.
And we all cheered.
And we celebrated. Week after week turned into month after month and then year after year. We celebrate this kid for not having done anything and from what I hear, doesn’t do anything for at least the first 18 years of life. We celebrate this kid for having caused a lot of stress, worry, and money spent by their parents. We celebrate this kid for all their tantrums, their meltdowns, and their lost or broken expensive toys. We celebrate this kid for all the times we wanted them to just be quiet, or we wanted to pull out our own hair, or we wonder whatever were we thinking for bringing this life into the world.
But at the same time, we celebrate this kid for being around us, at times filling us with joy, and allowing us to see the world through more innocent and pure eyes. We celebrate the relationship, comradery, and the person being who they are which helps us to be who we are. We celebrate the many ways that this person has affected us, changed us, and touched our lives in a way that we might find it hard to ever have lived without them. And I’m not just talking about those first 18 years, but as that kid grows, we continue to celebrate, we continue the relationship, we continue in the joy of having that person in our lives.
So looking at it that way, the birthday we are celebrating isn’t really about whoever’s birthday it is anymore, but it is celebrating all of us together, celebrating the community around them and us, celebrating each of us as individuals finding common ground in our relationship and friendship.
And so that brings us back to today. The holiday of all holidays, the commemoration of all commemorations, the birthday of all birthdays. And some people might be wondering why. Why does this particular holiday get so much hoopla? Why does this commemoration cause people to do so much? Why does this birthday get so many… candles?
Well, this birthday did happen a long time ago, and if we were trying to accurate we’re probably a bit on the light side with the candles…
But as far as overblown birthdays go, Christmas really seems to take the birthday cake. I mean, pretty much everyone decorates in some way for this day, and pretty much everyone gives or receives at least one thing special for this holiday, even if it is just a card or even a greeting. This really is the birthday of all birthdays.
And while we might say of course, it is because of all that Jesus has done, I would actually argue differently. I mean, Easter is commemorating what Jesus has done, the guy died on the cross and rose again. Lent commemorates Jesus’ time fasting in the desert. Epiphany commemorates who Jesus is as God’s Son. But Christmas? No, Jesus didn’t do anything for Christmas, that was all Mary and Joseph. The shepherds. And some angels. We don’t even know anything about Jesus’ life until he got lost when he was 12, and then nothing until he turned water in wine when he was like 30. So this birthday isn’t celebrating stuff he did at all.
Rather, this birthday, this commemoration, this holy day is about us. It is about our relationship with Jesus, with each other, with ourselves even. It is about community, comradery, companionship. It is about not what Jesus has done per se, but who Jesus is to us, for us, and with us, as one of us, serving and loving us, and showing us the will of God. Today is our day. Today is about our community. Today is about the relationship we share with each other, with friend, with stranger, with neighbour, with relative, and how we are all connected by the love of the Spirit. Today is about celebrating who God has created us to be, how God has gifted us to be with and serve one another, how God continually shows us the grace and mercy that knows no bounds. Today is about us gathering together in the name of Christ, celebrating a baby born unto us, yes, but a birthday that helps us to see who we really are.
You have probably noticed how people seem happier at Christmas. Generally it seems like people are more willing to give, serve, and be friendly with each other. It is like people are just beaming with the notion of that community, perhaps subconsciously feeling God’s presence with us, maybe more open to share the love that they somehow know and feel inside. This is the magic of Christmas. This is the beauty of this birthday. This is why this day is the holy day of all holy days, it represents all of us, together as the one human race, held and forgiven by a gracious God, and welcomed into community as the one body of Christ, blessed by the Spirit.
On this day, we are reminded of all that. We are reminded of who we are. We are reminded that we are part of a wider community, an eternal body, a kingdom of God. We are reminded that we are loved. And on this day, this holy day, we know that we are given value and worth beyond all measure, and that we together celebrate the gift of baby born unto us, and that we can sing with all the choirs of angels, the hosts of heaven, and the church on earth, that our God has given us every good thing, filling us with joy, worthy of celebration. All thanks and praise be to God. Amen.