Kind of a humbug, but hope remains

I’ve been ill the past couple of weeks, so that’s kind of exacerbated my poor disposition towards the holiday season. I didn’t get to make truffles this year, because who wants other people’s virus-infused chocolates? That’s both gross and rude. I did make it to the mall a couple of times, but I can honestly say that I now truly hate the madness of the holiday shopping experience. But that’s all done and over with. I’m nearly back to normal, so I don’t have to carry an arsenal of tissues and cold pills. I still don’t have truffles, but that’s OK. I still hate the mall, and that’s OK, too, because there’s something much more important right around the corner.

We’re getting down to game day for the Church. It’s one of two days that always seems to draw people to the pews, even if they can’t be bothered the other 50 weeks out the year. I’m not saying they’re horrible people. I’ve missed my fair share of Sunday’s over the years, maybe the result of a long night of studying or a late night Lord of the Rings marathon (of which my wife rarely never participates.) They’re not horrible people, but I do think it says something about them.

I think the people who show up at church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, those people who don’t necessarily know anybody else because they’re never there, all have something in common, not just with each other, but with each and every person who comes to church every Sunday. Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe I’m just sentimental. But I think what draws people to Church, be it on Christmas or otherwise, is hope. No, I don’t mean the political slogan. I mean just general, all around hope. Hope that things can be better. Hope that our marriages can stay together. Hope that we can take care of our household. Hope for an end to unemployment. Hope for healing. Hope that we can be redeemed for whatever is gnawing away at our conscience. Hope.

It’s this hope that draws people, not just to the pews, but to the foot of the Cross, where the hopeless can be hopeful. It draws them to the empty tomb, where that hope is put into action. But before that ever happens, we get to celebrate Christmas. Where our hope put on the flesh of a man and drew breath. As a baby and his young mother cried, angels rejoiced. Hallelujah.

We church folk seem to have gotten the idea that there is a war on Christmas, to which I ask “so what?” The integrity of Christmas has nothing to do with whether or not someone says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Christmas is not diminished because it isn’t the exact date of Jesus’ birthday, or because the date’s association with pagan festivals. That’s just noise that should be filtered out, because it doesn’t really matter. It really doesn’t. Faith matters. Hope matters. Love matters. Christ matters. Remember that when a stranger is sitting in your pew this Sunday.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

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