Summary: I wonder if we can reclaim Christmas from the children. Can we have an adult Christmas?
An Adult Christmas: Advent #3
Dec 10, 2005 Matt 1:18-25; 2:13-14, 19-23
I wonder if we can reclaim Christmas. Of course we need to reclaim Christmas from the crass secularism and commercialism that substitutes “happy holidays” for “merry Christmas”, and that makes gathering around the manger in worship of God become human far less important than gathering around the tree in worship of material stuff.
We need that one, but that is not the reclamation of which I speak this morning. I wonder if we can reclaim Christmas from the children. Can we have an adult Christmas?
Please do not mis-hear me. I love children, as most of you know very well. I love to make them feel involved, included, and worthwhile. I love to laugh and play with them, I love to see their eyes light up as their childlike hearts are moved with joy and excitement, and I love to be there to comfort and encourage when their childlike hearts are upset. And I love the joy of children at Christmas: in our home we have a wooden Advent calendar, and every day the three of us gather around and take turns opening the door and discovering the treasures inside. I love how Thomas’ eyes light up every morning when it is time, I love how he jumps up and down with excitement, and joy as we do that together. Next Sunday morning our children will present their Christmas drama, and we will smile and take great joy in seeing them onstage. I would never take those things away.
But I wonder if, in the midst of those things, we could have an adult Christmas.
Fleming Rutledge on an Adult Christmas:
This thought has been rumbling around my head since reading a brief article by a woman named Fleming Rutledge, a deeply respected priest from New York. Let me share just a little bit:
“Grown-up people seem to become addled at this season as they try to recapture their lost childhoods. One of our leading mail-order companies put this verse on its Christmas shipping boxes a couple of years ago: "May you find among the gifts / Spread beneath your tree / The most welcome gift of all / The child you used to be." A typical greeting card says, "Backward, turn backward, 0 Time, in your flight / Make me a child again, just for tonight!"
Harmless, you say. But in a culture like ours, where parents have very little time to spend with their children, and where an obsessive pursuit of youth has caused an 800 percent increase in cosmetic surgical procedures in ten years, a focus on becoming childlike at Christmas seems guaranteed to skew the message of the incarnation…
In these stress-filled times, virtually all of us, as we get older, will seek relief by visiting, in our imaginations, a childhood Christmas of impossible perfection. These longings are powerful and can easily deceive us into grasping for a new toy, new car, new house, new spouse to fill up the empty spaces where unconventional love belongs. Our longings are powerful, our needs bottomless, our cravings insatiable, our follies numberless. For those who cannot or will not look deeply into the human condition, sentiment and nostalgia can masquerade as strategies for coping quite successfully for a while -- but because it is all based on illusion and unreality, it cannot be a lasting foundation for generations to come.” (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=700)
An Adult Obedience:
Instead of retreating into nostalgia, let’s “look deeply into the human condition”. Last Sunday we did so by considering weakness: how God became weak and helpless as an infant, and how weakness of that sort is Christlikeness. This morning I’d like to pick up on that theme and look at what we do with our weakness, and what Scripture has to say to us. Put simply, in our weakness we need to obey. Specifically, let’s look at Joseph. His story begins in Matt 1.
“18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins."
22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[d]—which means, "God with us."