Gifts have been opened, turkey and ham have been eaten, carols have been sung, candles have been lit. We have once again celebrated the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Now that the glitter (and shopping) of the Christmas season is over, how do we as the church pick up the pieces and move on?
During the past few weeks, my sermons have been focusing on the way in which Jesus’s birth fulfills Old Testament prophecies. My hope was that we would be able to avoid thinking of Christmas merely as a family-centered holiday that is measured in terms of how many gifts you give (or receive). Instead, I hoped to encourage you to celebrate the birth of our Savior with a broad understanding of history: God fulfilled his ancient promises to redeem his people through the miracle of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Because the fullness of God lived in bodily form, we can know God intimately – and we can receive forgiveness through this the sacrifice of this God-man.
No other event in history compares to this one. Without God taking on human flesh, even the wonder of the Easter season is lost. To be sure, we cannot live as Christians without celebrating the Lord’s death and resurrection, but neither of those could take place if he were not human, tangible, mortal. So we celebrate the truth of “God with us,” Immanuel, Jesus of Nazareth.
But now what? The season of Advent is over, and we move ahead into a season in the church calendar called “Ordinary Time,” that season between Advent and Lent. Maybe our lives naturally tend to reflect that title once all the Christmas decorations are taken down, new gifts are put in their places, and the bills are paid off.
I would suggest to you that this should be no “Ordinary Time” at all, especially for those of us who believe in Christ as Lord. Just as the birth of your own child is just the beginning of the family process, the birth of our Savior is the beginning of a new chapter in our salvation story, not the end. Our culture may be done with the season – stores clear their shelves with massive sales at this time of year – but we as followers of Christ should carry the banner forward into the coming months.
Our Savior has been born. The world rejoices! But now what? Now we proclaim to the world the message that must follow. The truth of Jesus Christ reaches beyond the month of December. It is for all time! Salvation, holiness, and unity are themes that reach into our ordinary lives and make them extraordinary. Once the Lord grabs onto us, we are no longer the same. Artificial trees get packed away and real trees quickly lose their needles, but we continue to grow because the Lord has come into our lives. The love, joy, peace, and hope that we celebrate during Advent is not just for the Christmas season; they apply to us in the most normal situations of life – even the most painful and lonely times that are devoid of family get-togethers and Christmas cards and shared gifts.
People of God, carry the truth of Christmas into the coming weeks and months. The Lord has come into our world, and we can no longer be the same!