Do you ever have the experience of Christmas coming and then too-suddenly gone? Does Christmas leave you feeling like you missed something and you wonder why? As a busy pastor, I annually contend with this. The crux of our problem is the idea of “doing Christmas.” Christmas has a way of reminding us how busyness is our spiritual undoing.
Of course, we include various things under the phrase “doing Christmas.” It can involve decorating, cooking, visiting, corresponding, travelling, sending and receiving gifts. We get so caught up in doing Christmas that we forget Christmas is not about what we do. It is about what God has done and is still doing. Christmas is not the accumulation of our pet observances from the past, but a fresh take on an act that occurred once and now lives on eternally. Can we stand still long enough to say this aloud to one another?
Christmas falls on a Monday this year. As it works out, because of the calendar, our Advent season of preparation will never be shorter than it is this year. The morning of the Fourth Sunday of Advent will magically morph into Christmas Eve later that same day. This means if we are not careful, it is even easier for Christmas to fly by us without ever experiencing how deeply the babe born in Bethlehem has altered our existence. My challenge is to see this doesn’t happen—to you or to me. I won’t tell you that you shouldn’t be doing seasonal things like caroling, hanging mistletoe, wrapping bundles, and the like, because you will just do them anyway, and because I will do them as well.
But before we miss out big-time, how about if we make a pact? How about if you and I agree, no matter what, to allow God to interrupt us? Think of all the interruptions in the first Christmas story. Mary’s wedding plans were interrupted by the angel Gabriel. Joseph had planned a traditional wedding with all the trimmings until the scandal broke. (It remains a scandal today.) Then we have the shepherds, tending their flocks, minding their own business, when the heavenly host appears to inform them they need to be somewhere else. I am sure that the magi hadn’t planned on a long, extended winter road trip until the star. We could go on and on like this. Jesus’ birth means interruption. Anyone with a newborn implicitly grasps interruption. And the rest of us tend to forget it.
Amid your holiday making, how willing are you to be interrupted? We resist interruptions because of how they mess up our careful plans, our protected routines, and our sense of control. But Christmas was God’s loving, non-coercive, decisive way of finally taking our well-being in hand when, after millennia, we’d failed to live up to our end of the deal.
“The truth is,” C. S. Lewis wrote, “what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending to us one day at a time.” John Lennon, no theologian, wisely said, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” The glad tidings of Christmas had to break up our plans because the birth of a poor nobody chosen to save us isn’t a tale we could ever invent. It interrupts us like dreams interrupt our sleep. Such a wild salvation will always interrupt us. But such holy interruptions let us see the world differently, perceive what’s most real, and reason from God’s side of things. How willing are you to see? Willing enough to stand still? Willing enough to listen and hear afresh?