What to Do About Christmas???
A few years back I ran across this sermon by Rev. Paul Larsen, an ELCA minister. It was written for a Blue Christmas Service at his church to help people who had suffered a loss get through the Advent and Christmas season. As I re-read it, it struck me that what he has to say fits the times we are living through. So, I offer an edited version of it to you during this COVID-19 Advent Season. Wherever we find ourselves, it will help us focus on the true joy of this season.
Christmas is filled with so many memories, so many traditions, so many things that are supposed to be just so, and when our life has been turned upside down, we can’t help but feel upset. Experiencing a loss is hard enough, but going through the holidays makes it feel overwhelming.
Part of the problem with Christmas is that we have romanticized it and sentimentalized it to the point that we miss its realities. God sent his son to be born, not in a sanitized, cutesy little stable warmed by the bodies of freshly washed, fragrant smelling animals. It was a dump. It was barely better than being in the street. Mary was called to be the mother of the Savior, but God did not save her from the stigma of being pregnant without the benefit of marriage. This birth took place far away from family and friends, and it happened under awful conditions.
We also often fail to remember that this baby was born to die. Unless we see the shadow of the cross falling on the crib, we are not seeing Christmas clearly. Jesus didn’t enter this world just to be a cute little baby. He came to suffer and die on a cross so that our sins might be forgiven and so that we might be saved. Because of the death and resurrection of the one born at Christmas, we have the hope and the promise of new life. It is a new life that begins now in knowing that God loves us and cares about us. It is a new life that continues throughout eternity in God’s kingdom where “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
The former things have not yet passed away so our tears still flow, but we can find comfort in the fact that God cares about us. Even though death still exists, we can find hope in God’s promise of new life. Pain still racks our body and soul in this life, but God does give us the strength and courage to get through it. God promises that it will get better.
Even though no one else understands exactly how we feel, God does. For God knows us better than we know ourselves. Because God knows us and loves us, empowers and upholds us, we can grow stronger in the broken places. With God’s help, we can be people who recover from whatever loss we have experienced, so that we will be able to help others find hope and peace and even joy.
Despite all of the loss we have experienced this year, the message of Christmas is meant for you and for me. Just as the angels said these words to the shepherds, so we should listen to them today: “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Amen. (Paul L. Larsen — Christ the King Lutheran, New Brighton, MN — Blue Christmas Sermon)
Pastor Steve Ranney