By Bishop Ann Svennungsen
More than any time of year, it seems, Christmas is a season for remembering. The sounds, sights, and smells evoke memories of days gone by.
I remember singing carols with my cousins on Christmas Eve – all of us jealous that my older brother got the best solo. I remember my younger brother, newly able to read, sitting by my dad reciting from the second chapter of Luke. I remember my mom bringing out the table cloth she and I had made out of net and felt fabric, with probably a thousand sequins sewn on it. (Now, I’m lucky to sew on a missing button before six months have passed.)
Yes, this is a season for memories – looking backward to the holiday experiences of our past. How ironic it is, then, that the Christmas story has little to do with looking backward and everything to do with looking forward. It’s the story of a birth, the creation of a newborn baby who has a whole life ahead of him.
I’M REMINDED OF THE FIRST time I gave birth and held my seven-pound Sarah in my arms. Thoughts of the past quickly vanished. Looking into her eyes, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of the future. How would this tiny one grow? How would her life unfold?
And no birth opened the future more powerfully than the birth of Jesus. When we celebrate this birth, we celebrate not only the future of the baby in Bethlehem, we celebrate the future of the whole creation. In Jesus’ birth, we receive the promise of a new beginning, of fresh possibilities. For, if the God of all the universe can become enfleshed in a wrinkled, reddened newborn, then nothing is impossible. The future is thrown wide open. What seemed impossible yesterday might be possible today.
“The gospel message calls us to remember way back to the very first Christmas. Then, we are turned around and we look ahead to see God’s future opening before us.”
Oh, Christmas will always remain a season for memories. And I pray that God’s grace will enfold each of us as we are touched by memories of holidays past. But, the gospel message calls us to remember way back to the very first Christmas. Then, we are turned around and we look ahead to see God’s future opening before us.
It’s easy to believe that tomorrow will be just like today; to resign ourselves to thinking there’s “nothing new under the sun.” But the miracle of the incarnation unlocks our imaginations:
- What might this God be up to in our lives, our churches, neighborhoods, our world?
- How might this God – for whom nothing will be impossible – lead us to participate in God’s work of healing and reconciliation?
- What gospel surprises await us in the year ahead?
May your Christmas celebrations be filled with fresh wonder, renewed joy, and enlivened hope in the God who opens the future in the birth of Jesus.