Christmas did not come after a great mass of people had completed something good, or because of the successful result of any human effort. No, it came as a miracle, as the child that comes when his time is fulfilled. . . In this way did Christmas come; in this way it always comes anew.
By mid-December many a conversation begins: “Are you ready for Christmas?” I used to dread that question, but now I hear in it an acknowledgement that the work of making Christmas celebrations happen, at church or home, is no small task. It’s complicated by the struggles of life and relationship, intensified by all that we cannot control, and compressed into a relatively short period of time. When we’re tired, we long for simpler ways to mark the season; when we’re rested, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m not speaking of the superficialities of Christmas, which we all do well to keep in perspective, but rather its nobler aspects—preparing meaningful worship, caring for one another, gathering at tables, considering thoughtful gifts for those we love, and widening the circle of our concern to those in need. All this takes effort, and it’s well worth it.
Yet what this holy season celebrates isn’t what we make happen. At heart, Christmas is the gift of God coming to us in Jesus, God showing up where we least expect or are in greatest need. As one author writes of Jesus’ birth: “The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances. His parents were of no social significance, and his chosen welcome committee were dirt-poor shepherds. But in this weakness and poverty, those gathered at the stable would come to know the love of God.” We, too, can know that love, in the weakness and poverty of our lives.
So if you’re wondering where you might experience the grace of God this Christmas, don’t imagine that it depends upon completing your Christmas checklist. Look instead to the places that feel frazzled or empty. Dare to be honest with what you struggle with or long for most. Show up in the places where you feel the least hopeful. Then ask yourself, “Am I ready for Christmas?” Which is to say, “Am I ready to receive what God alone can give?”
Throughout the diocese, people are working hard to offer Christmas worship filled with good news of great joy. I’m so grateful for all you so freely give so that others might receive the true gifts of Christmas. I pray that you may receive that gift for yourself, which is the gift of Jesus coming to you where you least expect and need him most.