Christmas Day–even for people like us whose kids are grown and far away, this can be a busy day. I was up early to put the turkeys in the ovens–the church my wife pastors is having a free Christmas dinner and I volunteered to look after the turkeys. For me, cooking a turkey is part of the Christmas process.
Between the Christmas dinner preparations and all that go with hosting 30-40 people for dinner, this is a busy day. There is a lot that we have to squeeze in: our traditional bacon and egg breakfast; checking the stockings that Santa filled sometime during the night; finding time to open our presents; watching the grandchildren open some of their presents via Skype. We also need to find time for the obligatory nap after we finally finish at the church as well as at least open the new Christmas books–that does combine well with the nap sometimes.
We will also probably eat some stuff that we shouldn’t; watch a movie or at least sit in front of the TV while a movie plays; try to clean up the wrapping paper and maybe even do some exercise–my wife’s dog will begin to insist on that at some point. I will take a lot of pictures, find some time to check the news on the Internet and TV–although that also might get combined with the nap.
Today is a busy day–and we are not alone in being busy. There is so much to do and so many things that we want to do that it is hard to fit it all in. Christmas is busy and active and filled with fun and traditions and customs and indulgences. It is a busy day, a good day, a stressful day, a tiring day, a wonderful day.
And we, like most of the people celebrating the day will probably end up forgetting why we have this day in the first place. That statement isn’t meant to be the introduction to a rant about losing sight of God or letting culture replace faith or losing Christ from Christmas. There have been times in the past when I would have probably followed that route–and in reality, there may be times in the future when I am tempted to go that way.
But right now, I am seeing one of the real implications of Christmas. The Christmas story tells us that Jesus will be called “Immanuel”, a name which means “God with us”. The story of Christmas is part of the bigger story of the Gospel, which assures us that because of Jesus Christ, God is with us. His presence is dependent on his grace and love–and isn’t dependant on our recognition of his presence.
Certainly, it is probably better for our faith development if we work at being conscious of the presence of God in our lives but the deep and powerful reality of the Gospel is that God is with us and will be with us and nothing can change that. When I remember that, I can seek and realize the evidence of the presence.
But in truth, on Christmas afternoon, after I have helped provide a meal for 30-40 and helped with the clean up, come home and spent time on Skype and the phone with the rest of the family and am sitting in a comfortable chair pretending to be reading the new Christmas book a as a cover for an unofficial nap, God is still with me whether I am thinking about him or not. If I manage to read the book or if I more likely fall asleep, God is with me. If I rouse out of the post meal stupor and consciously open myself to his presence, he is with me. If I spend the day busily accomplishing all the things that “need” to be done and don’t ever consciously think of God’s presence, he is still with me.
That is the important thing: God is with me because of Jesus. He is here, he stays with me, he isn’t dependant on what I am doing or not doing, what I am thinking or not thinking. Immanuel–God with us. Merry Christmas.
May the peace of God be with you.