Summary: After Christmas it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the return to reality, responsibility, and even depressing weather. The psalmist also felt overwhelmed until he remembered what God had done in and for him and that God was still present, even when unfe
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC January 6, 1985
Well, Christmas is over, isn't it? Christmas is over and done with, except for a few remaining lights and poinsettias … over, done with, finished. It was great while it lasted, but Christmas is over.
How do you know that Christmas is over? How do you really know that yuletide is wrapped up and put away?
You know that Christmas is over when the kids' new toys are broken7 the batteries are all run down7 and the Cabbage Patch doll just looks like a cabbage, period.
You know that Christmas is over when the boss interrupts the holiday conversation around the coffee pot with a clearing of his throat and the terse announcement that it looks like it's time to get back to work.
You know that Christmas is over and done with7 when the postman brings no more hand-addressed Christmas cards but instead a computerized greeting, “You may have already won $2,000,000, signed, Ed McMahon. “
On the other hand, you know that Christmas is not quite over, not quite, when the postman also pitches in another kind of greeting from Visa and MasterCard and Woodies and Sears and on and on. Christmas is not quite over.
Or, again, you know that Christmas is over when the folks at church quit singing about angels and shepherds, when the preacher ceases to wax eloquent about babes and peace on earth, and they get down to budgets, buildings, Bible study, and all the usual stuff, all the ordinary, garden-variety, back-to-business kind of thing. Christmas is over.
And there is another sign. There is another signal that Christmas has disappeared. It's the weather. The wet, wet weather. Somehow for Christmas it's always glorious -- maybe sunny glorious, maybe white snowy glorious, but glorious just the same. But when Christmas is over, that's when you get wet: wet, wet, wet. Ice and wet. Snow that's wet. Rain, drizzle, dampness, wet. The backyard looks like a lake; the shoes are muddy, the newly cleaned up car quickly acquires a coat of gunk, because it's wet. Wet, wet, wet.
When I was a seminary student I had the advantage over my fellow seminarians, because I had grown up in Louisville where the seminary was located. I had grown up there and knew about the place and all of its peculiarities. I knew, for example, that every January, you could expect one thing, you could count on one reality: wet. Water, rain, sleet, slush, whatever, but wet. Day after soggy day, night after drippy night. Wet. And my fellow students, after two straight weeks of this, would consult me and would say, “Is it always like this? Is Louisville always this wet and cold and depressing?” They had come from Georgia and Florida and Texas and from someplace they pronounced Mizipi (which always sounded like a wet place to me … Mizipi), and they professed never, never to have seen anything like it. It was, well, it was so … wet, wet and watery and depressing.
Christmas is over when the weather gets watery. And the Christmas of the spirit soon passes when you think you are about to drown. The Christmas of the spirit is over when you believe you are about to be overwhelmed with all that is happening to you, with all that is going on around you. Do you know what I mean? Can you sense what I'm pointing to? Listen to the way the psalmist put it some three thousand years ago:
“My soul is cast down within me … deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts; all they waves and thy billows have gone over me.”
“My soul is cast down within me …”. If the psalmist were alive today, he would make his language contemporary: I'm depressed; I'm dejected; I've had it; I feel overwhelmed.
“Deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts …”. That is, there are powerful things going on all around me, and I have no way to relate to them. I can’t handle it all. It overwhelms me.
“And all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me.” I am washed away, Lord, by what is happening. I am drowning, just about drowning, in everything you've sent me. I have too many bills to pay, I am behind in my work, the kids are growing up too fast, I am getting old, the house needs painting, the car is making a funny noise, down at the church they want to know· if I'll teach a class, the boss wants to know where my report is. I'm drowning, Lord, I'm drowning. And Christmas is really over, because it's watery and wet. “Deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts; all thy waves and they billows have gone over me.” Water for drowning.