Christmas does not come just once a year.
Jesus is not unpacked with the ornaments, a part of the tangled mass of colored lights.
Christmas does not begin when we put up the Christmas tree. Neither pine needles nor the smell of cinnamon make it a reality. Jesus cannot be hung up and taken down like our decorations.
We cannot pick him up from the store. Jesus? Check.
He cannot be mixed in with bows or wrapping paper, eggnog, ham and candy canes. His primary colors are not red and green.
Christmas jingles like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are no match for Mary’s Magnificat in Luke’s gospel:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on, all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
These songs may bring “holiday cheer,” but Mary’s is the first noel. From wedding invitations to a baby announcement, Mary declares, “God is with me!” It only looks good on a Christmas card now.
Still, Christ is not ready to be celebrated once all the cards have been placed in the mail. We do not invite him and are never ready to receive him.
And, of course, it is business as usual. Emperor Augustus is building his Roman Empire, but he is too late. God’s kingdom is already here.
Augustus is expanding roadways, and God is offering the path to salvation. Augustus is making savvy deals, and God has shaken hands with Mary.
She and Joseph will go door to door in an attempt to make this delivery. But as it was then, so it is now.
We don’t have a spare bedroom or a nursery. We just used the last of our rooms for a walk-in closet. We just extended our master bedroom. We simply do not have any more room.
We don’t have a room for this type of work. No, we’ve got ballrooms and great rooms but no delivery room. We do not have a place for God’s kingdom to come.
Besides, it would make such a mess, and we just cleaned it for our other guests.
We have a spare room for our parents or in-laws and have set an extra place for them. But we just don’t have the room for Jesus.
And my look at the time! It is never the right time. Can you come back at another time, Savior?
Jesus came unexpectedly and to the one we would least expect. Sadly, we act as if he has come and gone.
Christ does not arrive once all the gifts are under the tree and his spirit does not dissipate once the children have grown tired of playing with them or we wave goodbye to our relatives and friends. “Thank you for coming.”
During Advent, we do not merely ready our hearts for the Christ-child, who is “away in a manger” and not up, up and away in a mansion but remind our left and right atriums and ventricles as well as the coronary arteries that God is with us now.
This is his good news and it is daily tossed at the door of our hearts. From swaddling clothes to wrinkled paper, this is not a seasonal greeting and Advent is not Jesus’ annual visit.
Minister to empower congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention.