Christmas is just the beginning.
So, how has everyone’s 2016 been? WAIT – don’t answer that, I have the interwebs available to me and I’ve read your posts. ;) It’s not the year that most of us wanted, hoped for, or even envisioned was possible. From politics, to deaths, to atrocities, and more - 2016 was a full year. And, if that has you down, I get it. But, regardless of whether you have deep faith in something bigger than each of us (Duct Tape) or if you believe that each of us creates our destiny (“No mystical energy field controls my destiny.”), Christmas doesn’t mark the end of a year fraught with turmoil and tension, it marks the beginning of something better.
The story goes that a child was born just shy of 2000 years ago. A child born in tough times under a ruler who was often cruel. A child that was marked for death from before his birth to two parents who didn’t know if they could handle it. I don’t have the blessing of having children (yet), but to those that do you know what the words, “I’m pregnant,” can inspire in you – hope, fear, joy, pain, worry, excitement. Now imagine if you were told your child was the son of God. And that from the moment he or she was born people would want to kill him. Just for being born; just for breathing his or her first breath.
Sounds pretty horrible, right? Sound pretty hopeless. For some of you, that may sound like 2016. :)
But that’s okay. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want or the way we expect. Because just because something starts with mixed emotions, fear, or even anger doesn’t mean that it ends that way. For the promise of the season is one of renewal, new beginnings, and salvation. And, that salvation is for all of us – for that salvation can be God-given or be purely about redemption in a world without God. Myth and storytelling, after all is about showing us the way and helping us to learn from those that came before us so that we can change our fate. That’s the promise.
Christmas is the promise.
The story of Christmas tells us that amazing things can start from humble beginnings. So whether you feel that life keeps telling you “There is no room at the inn” or you are literally sleeping in a manger, the promise is that something better is in the future. You will find people that believe in you, you will find those that support you, and you will find those that love you. That belief in your core – that you will find true love, that the government will work, that “cool heads will prevail,” that healing is possible, that a turn-around can happen – these things can happen. Does it take work? Sure – even Jesus had to walk from place to place, convince others to follow him, and face doubt, anger, envy, jealously, and debasement. The promise of Christmas isn’t that life will be easy. It’s that with work and faith anything is possible. Christmas is here not to tell us that life is happy, that everything works out, and that prayer alone heels all ills. No, Christmas is here to remind us of something much more important.
Christmas reminds us that, no matter what, in the end love wins.
Some of you may read that last statement and say, "Mike you had me until right there." What about the crap? What about the suffering of those in places like Aleppo? What about my uncle who just died? What about gang violence? “Mike, Princess Leia just had a heart attack – what kind of a world is that!?!?” Christmas doesn’t promise that horrible things won’t happen. They will. Somethings we can’t control, but others are more within our reach. Christmas and it’s resolution (or new beginning) in Easter tells us that we have to do the work. That this world is in our hands. If you believe that Jesus is our shepherd, then in his birth, death, and resurrection he gave us the charge of the flock. He gave us the keys to the Porsche. Now it’s up to us to take care of it using his life (real or mythic) to remind us change, hope, and peace are within our grasp. It’ll be hard sometimes, but there will also be moments of happiness, laughter, hope, pure joy, family, friends, and fun. Life isn’t just today. It’s all the days that came before us and it’s all the days we have yet to come – whether it’s just one more day or decades. The Jesus story tells us that Jesus experienced all of this and more.
And then he was betrayed.
Then he was murdered.
Here’s the thing, though.
That wasn’t the end.
2016 may not have been the year we hoped for a myriad of reasons.
But it’s not the end, either.
Tomorrow brings a new day. A hope for resurrection.
Because Christmas is the promise. And the promise is this: Love wins.
Merry Christmas, everyone!