What the World Needs Now… By Rev Nancy Nourse December 2017

I love Christmas, and the creativity and festivities associated with celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus so long ago. Many of us do.

But how often have you grumbled to yourself, “Christmas trees at Costco in August!?!” Or “Christmas displays up before Halloween and Remembrance Day?” Or “The malls are already playing Christmas music in November?” Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier, and yet my kids still say, “I can’t wait for Christmas to come!”

It all seems so tied into commercialism. And the season creates tighter schedules with parties and festivities, and wrapping gifts, writing cards, baking and cooking, cleaning and decorating…and often with that comes more expenses and budgets that burst at the seams. But perhaps…just maybe…we can put aside our Grinch thoughts and reactions, and realize that the secular holiday excitement, has a whole lot more to do with the Holy Spirit of Christmas than we first thought.

Perhaps Christmas promises so much of what the world needs now. Though we see a perfect scene on Christmas cards with a starry night sky, a peaceful baby sleeping in a comfortable manger amidst the glowing faces of his happy parents and visitors, and pure calm surrounding it all…there is so much more to the story that represents the fragile, broken, hurting world we live in. And so that’s why we say, “I can’t wait for Christmas to come!”

Let’s not forget that the Holy Family were refugees of sorts…homeless and transient…not by choice far away from the place they called home right at the inconvenient time that a baby was due to arrive. And when shelter was needed, they were turned away from everywhere except a barn behind the inn. Eight days after his birth, when it came time to fulfill the cultural and religious requirement of bringing the baby to the Temple to be blessed, we can see the poverty which encompassed them – only being able to afford a dove for sacrifice as opposed to the traditional lamb. And then the story tells of an old power-hungry king who threatens and commits terrible violence out of fear this new baby would steal his glory.

So perhaps the early arrival of Christmas preparations is not about commercialism, but about our world yearning for something that will overcome today’s similar challenges faced in our first Christmas story…that there might be an end to poverty, that refugees and the homeless might be welcomed, and that leaders of our world might make just and peaceful decisions for the well-being of everyone and not just the wealthy few.

Perhaps we are all just yearning for those Advent gifts of more hope, more peace, more joy, and more love. Not in a starry-perfect-world-night did God come into the world for us. Jesus was born into a moment of great complexity, and confusion, and frailty. But Jesus was born like we are, lived as we live, loved and laughed and struggled as we do. And died as we will die. And on the third day, God raised him, that we might no longer live in fear of death being the end of our story. Because it’s not. It’s a story of extraordinary promise: that God comes through the ordinary, the broken, the imperfect, the struggles, and in the darkest times to promise us a fresh start, a renewal in life, an opportunity to begin again.

The angel said, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people.” The very next verse says that he will be called Immanuel, which means God With Us.

Jesus means Savior. Immanuel means God With Us.

We need both.