Once again we are in that season we know as “the Holidays.” We bid one another “Happy Thanksgiving!” “Merry Christmas!” Happy New Year!” Although we know each year is different for each person and some years are happier and merrier than others, we genuinely want everyone to experience joy at this time of year.
In our church communities, we are specific about what we are celebrating. That is of great importance. That is what adds truth and meaning to these weeks. We are celebrating the knowledge that we are children of a good and gracious God who loves us and has come among as a Savior. To clearly demonstrate that this salvation is intended for all, God chose to be born as a baby who grew in the same way we all grow and who was subject to the same humanity with which we each struggle every day. Yet this child, Jesus, was God. This child, conceived of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, not only grew to adulthood and modeled for us the way to fulfillment in this life; our Savior Jesus actually chose out of love to give his life on the cross so that we would could live forever with God after our time on earth is accomplished. This sacrifice surpassed anything we could have done for ourselves. This act was possible for God alone, and Christmas celebrates the depth of God’s love for us which prompted God to be born among us. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and all his birth means for us and for everyone.
Thanksgiving Day invites us to enter into the holidays with deep gratitude to God for all aspects of our lives. The focus of the Thanksgiving holiday is simple—prayers of thanks to God and a shared feast. Our nation’s collective history and that of all humanity is that food is not to be taken for granted. There are sadly many who deal with hunger on a daily basis. We traditionally gather family and friends on Thanksgiving Day and eat those things we have to share with one another. Those who enjoy cooking pour love into the preparation of whatever is available, and the meal becomes the focal point for saying thank you—“Thank you, God, for giving us not only food and the other things we need in life, but also for giving us family and friends with whom to share that which we have and both the joyful and the difficult times. Thank you for both the sunshine and the rain, all of which bring forth abundance by your blessing. Thank you, above all, for caring for us, your creations, with tenderness beyond anything we could begin to imagine.”
In our churches, after this national day of thanks, we are then called to enter the Season of Advent. It seems to me a tremendous blessing that in this country Advent begins very soon after our nation holiday of Thanksgiving. With our focus on thanking God for every aspect of our lives, we then prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior. We recognize that God came among us fully human and fully God at the first Christmas and that there will be a second coming although we neither know nor need to know when that will be. Part of the joy of celebrating Jesus’ birth at Christmas is the undeniable reassurance about the goodness of our futures in the hands of a God who loves us this much. “Merry Christmas” is a given each year regardless of anything that is going on in our personal lives because nothing can negate the meaning of this event in human history for us as individuals. “Happy New Year!” “Happy Future!” is the equally undeniable outcome regardless of the individual pathways we may travel on our way there.
There is a very good reason people seem to change this season and the world around us becomes brighter and more beautiful. The holiday season is a joy-filled yearly reminder of who created us, and if we have gotten so caught up in the details of our individual existences that we have lost sight of that to any degree in the past months, it is a most welcome call to get back in step with what being a child of God means in our lives.
Have a Blessed Holiday Season,