by Tom Sims
It seems so small to say, “Merry Christmas,” and leave it at that. It is merry. Our hearts are at their best when dancing between the realities of brokenness and giddy joy. We are warmed, we are delighted, carols surround us, lights invite us; we are caught up in the season of hope.
We are merry as we ought to be.
Merriness is necessary to our emotional health and we must sing.
Yet, we must remember before there was a Christmas at all, the world was dark. For even as Christmas comes each year, as do Hanukkah and Kwanza, and other joyful winter celebrations, so comes winter itself. In the same season, we unwillingly welcome the darkest day of the year. It gets cold; flowers die or go dormant.
The darkness becomes a canvas for the lights we string up and electrify, illuminating the nights.
I insist that it lasts until Epiphany!
The world is still a very dark place. As in Genesis, it seems that darkness covers the face of the deep and chaos reigns in the affairs humankind. Wars rage; tyrants rule; slave traders traffic human beings; corruption persists; bitterness bites; loneliness prevails and despair paralyzes our best intentions.
In the darkness, as in Genesis, God says, “Let there be light!” And there is Light. The Light has come and the Light snuck in while no one was looking.
Peering eyes barely opened, recognized his mother from a bed of straw. He squirmed, tentatively exploring his world, not knowing it would so soon reject him or that for its salvation, and he would lay down his life. Yet to discover what in eternity he knew, that he was the Savior-Sovereign, he whimpered as any infant would and cried out for suckle.
So vulnerable was the Son of God, so frail the Son of Man and we did esteem him stricken, smitten, afflicted by God.
Crucified from the foundations of the earth, he emptied himself of glory. Yet, glory pursued him. He took on the form of a servant as angels stood by awaiting his slightest summons. He subjected himself to temptation, but shunned sin. He walked among men as a man, but his divinity could not be hidden. He prayed as we must pray and taught us in so doing to embrace the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. There he lay, a bundle of need who had hitherto known no need. Packaged in his person, were the potent possibilities of reconciliation and redemption.
Here lay an offering, wiggling beneath swaddling clothes, wrapped up and carefully placed under every family’s tree.
Here lay the concentrated reality of all God’s love for humankind.
Here was a promise fulfilled, a hope realized, a purpose unfolding before our very eyes – and we esteemed him not.
How we have marginalized this child. How we have assigned him but a season of sentimental reflection and generalized good wishes. How we have misunderstood, misrepresented, or misappropriated the meaning of his coming. God manifest, he was and is and nothing less. Emmanuel – more than a pleasant sounding melody – is the miracle of incarnation. God is, absolutely, irrevocably, undeniably, and unambiguously, with us.
A child–weak and hungry–he was born into a world without incubators or Pampers or formula. He was born into a world of high infant mortality with an elevated threat on the Herodian horizon. For each who welcomed him, there were companies of soldiers seeking to snuff out his life. Soon to be on the run, a fugitive from his own people, he would return again and again and ultimately in a final show of death-defying atonement.
He is the Lord we laud, the Master we magnify, and the Savior we salute on this night of nights. We have no gold, frankincense nor myrrh to bring as acts of homage. We bring empty hands extended toward him that he might fill them with his own gifts. We fall down before him and worship with broken and joyful hearts, celebrating the power of the pregnant paradox – they that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Gaze upon him in wonder this night. Sing to him a lullaby of praise. O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
Light has come! Light is present. The winter shall retreat! The days shall grow longer. There is hope and each and every time we smile and greet our neighbor with a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holy-day or Holiday,” we pass on that hope and light yet one more candle.
It is a call to serve. It is a call to hope. It is a call the live as light in the world and to make a difference.
The little child has led us and let us now follow.
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
Note: Scottish singer and Save the Children Global Ambassador Susan Boyle releases a Christmas single O Come, All Ye Faithful and proceeds go to Save the Children.