The advent of the twinkling lights wrapping round trees and houses and shops intensify the exhilaration the coming holidays promise. First one house and then the next – and then the shopping centers exploding with millions of lights combine with carols and familiar refrains -- echo a message: this is no ordinary happening, no commonplace celebration. The “holiday lights” in Dallas are a breath-taking spectacle and seem to say something wonderful is coming. But we must be discrete about defining what the wonderful is, lest we give offense.
Growing up in Baltimore in the early 1950’s the downtown department store windows were wonderful – thrilling displays of toys, the North Pole and sugar plum fairies -- just like the one around which the children crowded in the opening scene of The Bishop’s Wife, (a movie I never saw until 1985 with our son, who was battling strep throat.) The windows, the lights, the stories built together a feeling that in the hush between December 24th and December 25th I would receive a wonderful gift. The Christmas holidays have always been a time of hope; from my childish hopes for this doll or that to hopes we would just stay healthy over the celebrations. Some of my childhood dreams – for peace in our family – were answered decades later when I grasped that Christmas was not simply about the world’s celebrations.
Being raised in a liturgical church, I knew what Christmas meant – the birth of Christ, also called Jesus. I just never made the connection between what His name meant and my needs. Understanding that connection is the source of continuing discoveries about people I love and myself. But our culture looks for ways to obfuscate the meaning, lest it offend and ruin the holidays – itself a shortening of “holy days.”
Scripture commands no memorial of Christ’s birth; we don’t know when He was born for certain – although Christ’s birth – God’s personal intersection with man as man – has influenced religion, art, music, literature and philosophy for two millennia, three or four if you count the time awaiting His arrival. For all the good His followers have done, we’ve much for which we owe Him an account. (Revelation 2-3) Therefore, that many outside the church don’t want to be lumped under a celebration of His birth, I get. That many of us inside the church don’t want to be maxed out in the world’s celebrations, I also get.
Before the wave of wonderment crashes over us – and we totally lose sight of the fact that in the fullness of time God kept His word, and brought forth His Son, born of a woman, I hope you see His light in all the lights of the season. I could wish you all kinds of things for this season – joy and peace to last a lifetime -- but I wish both you and me what Scott Wesley Brown sang about so many years ago: I wish you Jesus. And I pray you enjoy afresh the hope He gives that does not disappoint.