First Sunday after Christmas – December 30th, 2018 – Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7; John 1:1-18 – Trinity Church, Winchester
You can listen to this sermon by clicking here.
Today is the sixth day of Christmas. You would likely know that, even if you weren’t an Episcopalian, because of the famous song that reminds us all. Not to worry, I won’t be preaching about any “six geese a’laying.”
Nevertheless, I want to provide you with your annual reminder: Christmas is twelve days long. It’s not a day; it’s a season.
Sadly, by the first day of Christmas, most people—most Christians even—are tired of it. The mall has been decorated since Thanksgiving. Christmas music has been playing since Halloween. New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. (I bet we’ll be talking about our plans at coffee hour.)
By the time we’ve made it to church on Christmas Eve and unwrapped our presents on Christmas morning, we’re exhausted.
We’re tired of all the merriment, the holiday parties, the search for the perfect gifts, wrapping the perfect gifts, paying for the perfect gifts. Some of us adults might be tired of the kids who have already been out of school for a week. And some of us kids might be tired of being stuck at home.
It’s understandable. There’s a rush getting ready for Christmas. There are lots of sugar-cookies to frost, lots of grandchildren to buy for, and lots of places to set at the table.
It is human nature to throw ourselves into planning and preparing for events that, all of the sudden, are over. And it’s human nature to be (at least a little bit) glad when they are over.
Ever gotten married? After planning a wedding for months and months it’s only natural for the happy couple to pause and in some brief moment to look at one another and admit, “I’ll be glad when this is over.”
The same is true of pregnancy. At least, as far as I can tell. I’ve never experienced it, but I have heard expectant mothers say, “I just want this to be over.” Pregnancies are hard on the body, and they take courage and hard work to manage. A friend of mine who was on bedrest for several months of her pregnancy told me, “I can’t wait until this is all done.”
When we are in the midst of stressful and emotional times it makes sense to want them to end. Sometimes, though, we get so hung up on seeing things as endings that we forget that they are beginnings, too.
Brides and grooms may say, “I can’t wait until this is over.” But they also say things like, “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.” The wedding may be the end of the stress and planning and anticipation of the wedding day, but it’s the beginning of life together.
A pregnant woman may say, “I can’t wait until this is over,” but I’ve also heard her say, “I can’t wait to hold this baby in my arms.” The birth is the end of the pregnancy, but it’s the beginning of a completely new chapter of life. One that will contain a toddler, a middler-schooler, a college student, and maybe even grandchildren!
The same is true with Christmas. There are plenty of reasons to be glad that your Christmas festivities are over. It’s stressful to coordinate family schedules. Christmas is hard to face alone, especially for the first or second time. And let’s be honest, it’s awkward to make small talk with relatives you hardly ever see. But now is the time to remember that Christmas is first and foremost a beginning.
Christmas is the beginning of Christ in our midst. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
The transforming birth of Jesus changes our relationship with God forever. God put on flesh and walked among us in order to tell us in the most profound way possible that God loves us. All of us.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Galatians that Christmas is the beginning of our new relationship with God. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman . . . so that we might receive adoption as children.” We are all children of God, and God lives in each of us—even in our flesh—forever. Christmas is the beginning of all that.
I know you’ve heard it before. “It’s still Christmas.” “Christmas lasts twelve days.” “We have until Epiphany, you know.” “Don’t undecorated the nave yet!” But I’ve decided that it is not the preacher’s job to worry about over-exposure to certain truths. Rather, it is the preacher’s duty to go right on preaching them. Today that truth is this: Christmas has only just begun.
You already know that Christmas is more than at day, that it’s a season. But let me let you in on a little secret: that season never ends.
Even next Sunday, when we come together to celebrate the Epiphany, it will still be Christmas, because the incarnate one will be with us. When Lent comes and our sins are heavy in our hearts, it will still be Christmas, because God will be with us. Emmanuel! When on Easter the joy of the Risen Christ fills the church with triumphant “Alleluias!” it will still be Christmas because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Every year of his life until this one, Walker has had the tradition of going with his mother to see Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol on stage at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. For the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to go with them.
There’s one thing about that performance that I always seem to remember above all else. Toward the end, when Scrooge is begging for his very life, he lands on his knees in front of the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” and he mutters, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, I will honor Christmas in my heart, I will honor Christmas in my heart.”
Friends, if you want to honor Christmas in your heart, honor Jesus in your heart, keep him there always, and look for him in everyone you meet. If you do that, it will be Christmas all the time.