A friend came into my office this morning looking like he was about to cry. I asked him what was wrong and he told me. Then he said, “And Christmas is coming and that will make it even worse.” Note that it’s only October (as I write this) and he’s already worried about getting through Christmas.
It really shouldn’t be that way. Everybody knows that.
Christmas is coming. It’s hard for a Scrooge like me to get through Christmas anyway, but when stores start playing Christmas music weeks before Thanksgiving and I have to say something happy about Christmas in October…well…uh…it’s my favorite thing right after jumping off buildings.
Speaking of jumping off buildings, did you hear about the man on the ledge of a 10-story building threatening to jump? His wife, his children, and the police pleaded with him not to jump but to no avail. Finally his pastor was called. His pastor crawled out on the ledge and sat there talking to the man. They talked for over an hour…and then they joined hands and jumped together.
Sorry, but my friend’s comments reminded me of that story. I was fine until he came into the office and told me why he was depressed and then brought up Christmas. I said to him, “You’re worried about Christmas and it’s only October? Thanks a lot! Now we’re both depressed.”
It really shouldn’t be that way. Everybody knows that.
Christmas will rob you of hope if you let it. I know. There’s so much to do, so many things to remember, and on top of that, there’s so much wrong with the world that singing “Joy to the World” seems crazy. When I was a pastor, every Christmas I tried to find a way to say what had been said a hundred million times and to say it in a way that wouldn’t bore people to death who had heard it a hundred million times. (A bit of hyperbole there.) And that’s not all. People who were depressed before became more depressed at Christmas. People who had lost loved ones had grief that was magnified at Christmas. And for those who were lonely, Christmas was a horror. They were my people and I was responsible for giving them hope. After all, I’m ordained.
A pastor really shouldn’t be down at Christmas. Everybody knows that.
So before I wrote you, I told Jesus that Christmas made me depressed and I was already a Scrooge. He said, “Everybody knows that…but I like you, so I’ll help.” Jesus did and now I’ll help you.
As I sat before the blank page, I remembered that Christmas is a time when we celebrate the most astounding, unbelievable, crazy thing that has ever happened in the history of the world. God—yes, that God—came. He really came. The Word really became flesh and all the questions of importance found an answer. Is there any meaning to all of this? Is there any hope? Is there a God? Does he care? Will he forgive? Will he forgive me? Does he love? Does he love me?
Christmas is when God answered, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes!!!”
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).
I remember one evening when I was a college student, a friend asked the girl he was dating to marry him. You could hear him shouting before he even got back to the dorm. “She said, ‘Yes’! Can you believe it? She said, ‘Yes’!” Pretty soon we were all laughing and slapping him on the back.
When I remembered that God said, “Yes,” I felt a little bit better about writing you.
But there is more. I not only remembered that he really came, I remembered that he never really left. In fact, it dawned on me that Jesus was looking over my shoulder as I was “spitting and cussing” about Christmas.
C.S. Lewis, when he was an atheist, said that he couldn’t get away from Christ. Lewis said that there was always someone there silently waiting and watching even if he didn’t know his name. He wrote, “To say I was searching for God is like saying a mouse was searching for a cat.”
In other words, as I thought about writing you, I wasn’t alone. It shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, Jesus did say, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (John 14:18-19).
I was starting to feel a lot better and very close to speaking in tongues when I remembered something else. Jesus was going to return and clean up the mess. At the ascension, you will remember, there were two men (angels) who came as the disciples looked up into heaven. They asked, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Have I told you the story of our German shepherd, Barnabas, biting the vet? It was not one of my most pleasant experiences. Our vet planned to give Barnabas two shots. When the vet gave him the first shot, Barnabas took it well. He didn’t whine or yelp. He took it like a man…uh…a German shepherd. I was quite proud of him. But when the vet went back to his little table to get the second shot, Barnabas watched him carefully. You could see it in my dog’s eyes. Barnabas was thinking, “It’s not going to happen, buster! Once was a surprise, but I’m not a stupid dog. You’re not going to do that to me again.”
When the vet got close enough, Barnabas didn’t bark or growl; he just opened his mouth and bit the vet’s arm off. Well, not quite, but he took a good piece.
So many think that those of us who are called by the name of Christ are foolish at best and insane at worst. It’s okay. Be kind and compassionate.
That not dissimilar to what Jesus said. “You did your worst to me the first time and I let you. I let you spit on me, laugh at me and hang me on a cross. But you won’t do that the second time. The next time I’m coming with my angels, and with thunder, lightning and trumpets. Then every wrong will be made right, every scoundrel will be silenced, and every knee will bow.”
Christmas is about advent—the first and the second. The first one gave us a taste of God’s forgiveness, love and grace. The second one will be a Christmas celebration the likes of which the world has never seen…and we will laugh and laugh and laugh.
I feel a lot better about Christmas now.
I know. Things are bad. The world is a mess. People seem to have forgotten about God. It seems that truth and morality don’t matter anymore. People laugh at us and make jokes. So many think that those of us who are called by the name of Christ are foolish at best and insane at worst. It’s okay. Be kind and compassionate. They don’t know any better. And when Jesus comes, they will then know and grow strangely silent.
He asked me to remind you.