Last Sunday is always one of my favorites. I love the Lessons and Carols service. I love hearing so many different voices reading this incredible testimony of God’s faithful love for his people. I love singing the carols that have stayed on the tip of my tongue throughout Advent. And, if I’m being honest, after the hectic last couple of weeks of December, a service like that feels like a safe sigh of relief—we made it.
I hope you will take a moment to read or re-read Amy’s post from last week about keeping the twelve days of Christmas. Feasting doesn’t always come naturally to us, since we are used to the blur of wrapping paper and the ravenous wolfing down of our Christmas dinner. I hope you and your family are still finding ways to celebrate that Jesus has come.
On Sunday, I gave a short meditation on how we receive Jesus. It’s an easy metaphor for us to compare Jesus to a Christmas gift. After all, we are surrounded by gifts at this time of year. But gifts, even the best gifts, lose their luster after awhile. There was a sense of newness and wonder when we saw the gift peeking through the wrapping paper, but sooner or later it becomes just a thing among other things, maybe useful but hardly remarkable.
Perhaps this is why the Incarnation is not described as a gift. When we think of Jesus as a gift, we become like the seed sown on rocky soil from Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13); we may spring up with joy in the moment of seeing and recognizing Jesus, but there aren’t roots to the relationship—sooner or later, Jesus becomes part of the furniture of our lives.
Instead, remind yourself this Christmas that “unto us a child is born.” When we have a child, we are wholly captivated by them in that moment. The whole world falls away and there is only this tiny, red, wriggling thing in our hands. Now, the awe of that moment may change over time as the child grows and has new needs—and brings new challenges!—but a child never becomes less of a miracle to us. They never become ‘just a part’ of our lives. In fact, it’s the opposite. As our children grow, our relationship deepens and becomes complex, layered through shared experience and even difficulties and conflict.
Of course, Jesus is not our child; he is our Lord. But in this Christmas season, while we linger at the manger-side in wonder at the miracle of this birth, let us for a moment appreciate that he is not a gift to be opened and used, but is instead God’s only son, who has come near to us, to know and be known by us. He is here that we might experience relationship with him, and by his grace (which is a precious gift) we might be united with God—part of his kingdom, part of his family.