Emmanuel. God with us. That’s the core of Christmas, that God the Son left his place in Heaven and came to us as a baby in a manger. What an unlikely beginning for a King. Talk about a disruption.
Our pastor spoke last Sunday of just what that Incarnation looked like, how God came into the world at Christmas. There was a visual he mentioned of Jesus putting his hand on peoples’ hearts to “stop the bleeding.” Not physical bleeding, but that dissipation and dissolution that leads to pain and hurt, often making us act like the broken people we are.
Sometimes just being kind during Christmas is all someone needs to transfuse them with life. I know it’s all I need. Which is why celebrating the birth of Jesus is an act of defiance, to choose to live like people who know that He came.
To notice others, speak kindly to them, acknowledge their worth as people made in God’s image. Wish them a “Merry Christmas” but also ask how they’re doing when they look harassed and harried. During this season most of all we are challenged to incarnate Jesus to the world in the face of all that would cause us to do otherwise. To choose joy in spite of what we see around us.
“Incarnate” means to embody in the flesh. Sometimes (most times) the way we act is more important than what we say. We don’t have to even mention Jesus’ name, but simply act in order that a door might open someday for a conversation about Him.
Of course, there is an enemy of our souls who wants to steal our joy and hijack our message, so it makes sense that it might seem like all Hell breaks loose in the weeks before Christmas. I know, I probably shouldn’t say ‘hell’ in the same sentence where I’m talking about Christ’s birth and all. But I think when God’s kingdom is advancing in the small ways we seek to honor him, there is always pushback.
My small part in that Kingdom growth was connecting with some friends at church and deciding to get together over coffee next week. We’d gather around a Christmas reading and share our own reflections of the season. We all agreed the timing would be great and just what we needed in the weeks ahead.
Full of joy, I woke up the next day with two tasks in mind–spend time decorating our midget Christmas tree (finally!) and address our Christmas cards. Cue the holiday music, light the candles, soak in the season and all. Defy the enemy of my soul and “Christmas on”, as John Blase says in his poem above.
But when I tried to turn on my phone first thing in the morning (Google Pixel 3a) I got a perpetually white Google home page which then turned into the black screen of death and “your phone may be corrupted.” Are you kidding me?! This was not how I envisioned my morning going.
Talk about a disruption. Clearly my plans were going to be changed.
No, instead I spent four hours on the phone with Google and Verizon and my phone insurance plan people. All to discover I’d actually need to go in person to the Verizon store. Which meant I’d have to get dressed instead of addressing Christmas cards in my jammies. I would need to go “be one with the people” as my daughter likes to say and consider instead how to “give gifts to others/even if that gift is only ourselves.”
There might have been some grumbling.
It turned out in my 90 minutes at the phone store I was able to be a gift and receive one as well. During my conversation with the service manager who bent over backwards to help me, I was able to affirm her and encourage her a bit, too. As she told me about how she and her wife (yes, her wife) just moved to the area in August, we talked about tiny houses and their two dogs and how we both agreed we needed to live somewhere by the water (she’s originally from California, as am I).
When I left the store, we were on a first-name basis while she urged me to let her know the next day if my phone was okay. (It is. Hallelujah.)
Sometimes Christmas is embodied best by honoring not just those we feel safest with but those who are n o t like us. If God is with us–and I believe He is–and in us, we can choose to defy the principalities and powers and “Christmas on.”
I can think of no grander disruption than that.