What’s Special About Christmas?
A Christmas Eve meditation
What’s special about Christmas?
What sets this day apart from other holy-days?
What prompts us to criss-cross continents
just so we can be home for Christmas?
The soul finds many reasons to celebrate the season.
On no other day of the year do we experience such deep longing
for peace and security,
for love and belongingness.
We hear the words of the angels to the shepherds,
and we want the peace and goodwill they proclaim
in our lives.
At Christmas, our memories go back to our own childhood,
to the time we experienced the safety and comforts
of our own family.
But as the years progressed and our families separated,
sometimes by distance,
sometimes by choice,
sometimes by death,
the longing for the togetherness of those early years remained strong.
That is why at Christmas we try hard to contact those people
who are close to us,
and to tell them how much we love them,
and we ask that they too, love us.
Life’s successes cannot hide
the deepest yearnings for family and inclusiveness
which Christmas awakens in us all.
Because of this need for intimate community,
we make a great effort to be worthy of love;
hence we spend so much money and time preparing our presents.
But it is paradoxical.
The more expensive and time-consuming our gifts—the more desperately
we attempt to reach our goal of love—the more we fail to grasp the essence
of our hidden need: the desire to be accepted as we are,
unconditionally and cheerfully,
by those that matter most to us.
What people in every age have craved
who can touch their inner soul,
and respond to them with easy discretion and kindness.
Our secular culture has promised more than it can deliver.
We’ve been taught there are ready-made solutions for every
even ageless, human problems:
but it is misleading to tell us we must always be positive and feel good,
otherwise there is something wrong with us.
Life is not so simple;
it is difficult, and sometimes tragic and overwhelming.
We must also nourish faith and spontaneous trust.
Real life contains the unexpected,
the reversal of fortune,
the sudden change of heart,
the indiscretion and blunder,
the crippling effects of guilt and shame,
and always the baggage of unfinished business.
Real life is a mystery for which secular culture has not provided
This is where the story of Christmas finds a focus,
for it offers the mystery of God in compassionate human circumstances:
in Mary’s teenage pregnancy;
in the welcome of a stranger’s barn for delivery of her firstborn;
in the arrival of the helpless infant, needing love and milk,
yet wrapped in the divinity of God.
And we who contemplate this mystery
find our own faith in life’s array of goodwill sanctioned.
At Christmas, we see the imaginations and fears of all people
focused onto one child,
a child whose destiny included the hopes and fears and sufferings
of all humanity.
And we know we are not alone.
This is why Christmas is so important,
for it awakens the mystery of care and compassion,
a mystery only love can teach us to understand.
Love alone makes our eyes shine,
as we watch the shepherds kneel in adoration
before the hour-old infant.
“Eyes seeking the response of eyes
Bring out the stars, bring out the flowers,
Thus concentrating earth and skies.”
For these and other compelling reasons
Christmas is magical wherever it is rightly marked:
It un-slumbers our need for peace and security,
and it gifts us with the unconditional love of God
in his unfolding universe.
Merry Christmas, and God bless everyone.
Rev. Dr. Eugen Bannerman
Gordon United Church
December 24, 2012