Endings and beginnings are often intertwined and difficult to separate. Christmas is one of those things that ends and begins all at the same time. For the secular world, Christmas is over and stores are moving on to Valentine’s Day items in between the markdowns and returns. For the Church Christmas ought to be on-going, not ending until January 6. There is more happening here as the liturgical year enters its second month and the secular year draws to a close.
Maybe it’s just me, but I often overlook some of the deeper meanings of Christmas as I slide through Advent on Christmas carols and candy canes. This year, though, my Christmas was quite different. I didn’t make it to my favorite worship service of the year, the 11:00pm candlelight, carols, and communion, because I was in the middle of moving 1428 miles across the country. The funny thing is that Christmas happened anyway. Countless others observed the rituals of community worship that mark the day of celebration and remembering the story. For me it happened in quiet moments in a hotel room with my spouse and two cats. Throughout the day, I’d catch myself thinking, “It’s Christmas. Wow!” And gratitude flooded through all the places anxiety likes to hide. My weird and sacred Christmas caught me by surprise and reminded me that the story is alive and can reach out and grab hold of me in new and unexpected ways.
Mary and Joseph made the arduous journey to Bethlehem. Jesus was born and some of the world noticed. At the appropriate time, they took Jesus to the Temple for the required rituals and Simeon and Anna noticed. People have been paying attention in varying degrees for generation after generation since then. So what are we paying attention to this year during this Christmastide? Are we attending to the darkness or the light? The things that have ended or the ones that have begun? Things that should have ended and haven’t or things that ended and shouldn’t have?
We have some choice in this. Jesus was born into a messy, chaotic, violent world. Some immediately recognized Christ in their midst. In that moment of grace, life as it had been known ended and something holy and new started. If no one paid attention, the world would just be messy, chaotic, and violent. Nothing would have ended and nothing would have begun. However, that is not the case. For all who suffer the effects of darkness, there is hope because the long-awaited One was born into the world to bring light.
Christmas is not over. In many, many ways it has just begun. Now it only remains to be seen just who is paying attention.
RCL – Year B – First Sunday after Christmas – December 28, 2014