Indeed, after our first earnest snowfall this weekend, the trees are now bereft of their leaves and covered with a blanket of white, and smoke is rising from chimnies in our picturesque little country town. Folks are bundled up in their winter warmies, the stores are ablaze with shiney holiday fare and sounds of Bing Crosby and Burl Ives warm the airwaves. I had Christmas music on myself this weekend, as I began in earnest my gift-making, and with the snow outside and Ella Fitzgerald singing about sleighrides, it definitely felt like Christmas.
And yet, what does the word mean? Christmas means, literally "Christ with us". This is why Catholics, who believe in the miracle of transubstantiation, call their services "Mass"- they believe Christ is actually present in the Eucharist. And as December 25 is the date we have traditionally decided to celebrate the coming of Jesus to earth, "Christ with us" is the perfect name for this holiday.
So, when I look around, I see the sleighbells ringing and ting-ting-tinglin', too, but do I see Christ with Us? What did it look like when Christ was physically with us in the flesh? When we read the gospels, we see that the blind (both spiritually and physically) gained their sight, the lame were healed, and the hungry were fed. People of all races, nationonalites and languages set aside that which divided them and came together around the person of Jesus Christ. Swords were laid aside and hands of reconciliation were extended, persecutors were forgiven and enemies were prayed for. Materialism was set aside in order for the needs of others to be met, and people were so impassioned by the Truth they had found that they counted all their personal gains a loss in order to go out into the world and share the good news.
And now that Christ has ascended to the right hand of the father, He abides in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And what does it look like when the Spirit is with us? Scripture says the fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.
And what will it be like when Christ returns? We see from the promises of God's word that swords will be changed into plows, and the Lion will lay down with the lamb. Every tear will be wiped away, and never again will we experience the darkness of sin.
So, as I look around my little corner of the world and beyond, I wonder how much is it looking like Christmas? Considering all the need around us, and the strife and war caused by human greed and hatred, and the myriad of petty ways we neglect and hurt one another in our daily lives, does a snowfall, some decorated trees, and apple cider really constitute what Christ with us looks like? As much as I love the charm and warmth of the holiday season and all it's delights (and as much as I will enjoy partaking in them), I have to conclude no.
So as we are feasting this season, here's some food for thought: What can we do each day as we celebrate the birth of our Savior to make it look a little more like Christ with us? How can we put aside materialism to see that our brother is fed, how can we share the truth that burns in our hearts with our neighbor, how can we be more patient, loving, and self-controlled, and how can we change our swords into plows? My prayer is that for everyone who looks forward to Christmas not only as an exciting festive holiday, but as the celebration of Emmauel, God with Us , that we will strive to make it look a little more like Christmas each day.