I love this time of year. Expectation. Hope. Wonder. I even think some of the commercial hype can add to the sense of mystery, awe, and wonder of the Christmas proclamation of Emmanuel, “God with us.” However, pastorally, I always worry this time of year. My worry comes from two areas. First, although gift giving is a wonderful thing that I cherish, many families are allured into significant debt to meet the gift expectations of the season. I’ve been there. I have kids. I know the pressure. Yet, I urge us all to remember the greatest gift is Jesus and extensive spending, even if we can afford it, isn’t what this season is about. The real gift of Christmas is free to us although it cost God everything. The second source of concern comes from the holiday expectations of happiness and bliss. You know, “Chestnuts roasting…family together … the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ etc.” This idealistic picture is also not what Advent and Christmas are about and can place additional weight on people’s shoulders that they cannot carry. Christmas is about God enveloping and taking all of humanity into himself. Christmas isn’t about the absence of pain or struggle but rather it is the assurance that God in Christ Jesus has come and enveloped our struggle in his love. Focus here this Advent and Christmas. This focus will not disappoint.
Here is a short word from one of Luther’s Christmas sermons. Let it be a gift to you and let it direct your focus and attention this Advent and Christmas. Come and adore the new born king.
This is a pure wonder that enters not into the heart of humanity. Our God begins with angels and ends with shepherds. Why does he do such preposterous things? He puts a Babe in a crib. Our common sense revolts and says, “Could not God have saved the world some other way?” The Christian faith is foolishness. It says that God can do anything and yet makes him so weak that either his Son had no power and wisdom or else the whole story is made up. Surely the God who in the beginning said: “Let there be light,” “Let there be firmament,” “Let the dry land appear,” could have said to the devil, “Give me back my people, my Christians.” God does not even send an angel to take the devil by the nose. He sends, as it were, an earthworm lying in weakness, helpless without his mother, and he suffers him to be nailed to a cross. The devil says, “I will judge him.” So spoke Caiaphas and Pilate, “He is nothing but a carpenter,” and then in his weakness and infirmity he crunches the devil’s back and alters the whole world. He suffered himself to be trodden under foot of man and to be crucified, and through weakness he takes the power and the Kingdom.