Psalm 72:1-4,11-14 NRSV
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.
“Thank God it’s all over,” she said wearily, “now...if I can just get it all put back up.”
She never indicated what it was that needed putting back up, but given the way she was visually reviewing all the Christmas decorations -now on 70% off! -and shaking her head in total disinterest, I figured she was referring to Christmas. Her husband eyeballed her as if to say that he knew full well he’d be doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to “putting it all back up.” (Part of my childhood Christmas memories include Mama doing the packing up, and Daddy doing the putting up, which involved carting all the boxes and bags up the pull-down stairs to the attic.) Though I managed to hold my tongue - miracles still happen - what I desperately wanted to say to her was, “But it’s not over yet! Christmas isn’t over yet!” In fact, I thought to myself, it’s not even New Year’s Eve yet, much less Epiphany. Why are we in always in such a hurry to call a halt to Christmas? As if Christmas itself could be bagged and boxed up, and put away in storage until we decide we’re ready to trot it back out again? As if Christmas were something we did, and therefore could undo, instead of what God has done?
The “putting it all back up again” remark was one I overheard a few years ago as I stood in line at a Dollar store on December 28th - but it is not the only “Thank God it’s over!” commentary I’ve heard in the days following Christmas. As I write this, it is now December 28th again, which is, perhaps, what triggered my memory of it. It’s my hope that the usual Advent and Christmas Chaos was somewhat less overwhelming for you this year, as it was for me. Some of the “Lessening of the Frenzy” was a real loss: not seeing and being with the grandchildren, not spending time with friends who are like family, or with brothers and sisters in Christ who truly are family. But some of the “Lessening” was just plain old a relief; in fact, I’m not sure I’ll totally embrace the Full Frenzy ever again. Our first (and hopefully, our only) pandemic Advent/Christmas has given me more time to contemplate the mind-buckling miracle of the Incarnation, and caused me ponder anew the deep truth of the season: Christmas is something only God could do; something only God can do. We can put up decorations and throw parties (remember parties?), but only God can save our great big hot mess by entering it and redeeming it in the flesh. Christmas is God’s work, God’s doing. We can no more pack it up and put it away than we could pack up the Crucifixion or put away the Resurrection.
And Christmas isn’t over yet. We’ve still got quite a few of the Twelve Days of Christmas left to go, and then, Epiphany: our yearly reminder that when the journey of the Magi came to an end, the journey of Jesus was only beginning. Just as our journey with Jesus is is only beginning anew, all over again. Because Christmas is God’s work: God’s work for us, God’s work in us, and God’s work through us. And God isn’t finished yet. As Howard Thurman put it, several decades ago:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace to others,
To make music in the heart.
May God go on working out Christmas. May God go on making music in our hearts. May God go on bringing peace to us and through us. May God grant us grace to join the work of Christmas. Amen.
Love Came Down at Christmas, UMH, #242
Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine,
worship we our Jesus, but wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token; love be yours and love be mine;
love to God and all men, love for plea and gift and sign.
Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood