With Advent 4 and Christmas Eve falling on the same day this year, there isn’t much time to switch gears. This is true in the life of the parish. The greenery is already hung, candles are in the windows, and the remote control for the battery powered pillars has been located. It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but only beginning. The poinsettias and magnolia won’t show up until after the morning services are complete. The Christ candle, lit twice this season in celebration of the Resurrection of the Dead, won’t get lit until Sunday night. The decorations have only begun, but we know there won’t be much time to make the transition. The same it true for preachers. I’m grateful for the blessing of a staff. This means that unlike many of my colleagues, I won’t be preaching Advent IV in the morning, Christmas Eve that night, and Christmas Day early the next morning. While this blog has been focused on Advent IV, my exegetical life has been already focused on Christmas Eve. This also means there isn’t much time to make the switch here either. So, with apologies to the Advent Police, today, with the O Antiphons still on our lips, I take a moment to consider the joy that comes on Christmas.
It seems that every Christmas, my interest is drawn to the same place. Having twice been in a labor and delivery room, I’m not real interested in hanging out with Mary and her midwife for the delivery of the Christ child. Instead, since it isn’t my child, I’ll act like a 1950s dad and hang out on the greens. I’m always glad for the shepherds in the Christmas story. I’m grateful that it is to them that the Good News of Great Joy is first delivered. There, out on the margins, is where the heavenly hosts arrive to sing praise to the God of our salvation.
Nobody liked shepherds. They were a necessary evil in a world still transitioning from nomadic farming. They were smelly and suspect in character. They were not to be trusted, and yet, it is to them that the Good News has been entrusted. The unbelievable witnesses will tell the unbelievable story of God’s unbelievable love for all of humanity. There is something comforting about all that disbelief. It makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I too might be qualified to tell the story. It makes me sure that you, dear reader, have what it takes to spread the Good News of Great Joy for all the people.
As you make the quick transition from Advent to Christmas this year, my prayers are with you. May God bless you with the words necessary to share the unbelievable joy that comes in a manger on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Merry Christmas, dear reader, I will see you in the new year.