I gave up New Year’s Resolutions years ago.
But every year, I face the same routine of looking at my life through the lens of aging. Always. We get to midnight on New Year’s Day and by 12:01 am, I’m trying on the new year’s number with the fascination of a time traveler. How did we get here? It was just 2000!
Now I use a different gimmick. I don’t resolve, I focus. I make a three-word-mantra for my year. It guides me and directs me. It makes far more sense.
But as a Christian, none of this has any connection whatsoever with our faith, our story, or what it means to be a follower of Jesus. None.
Certainly, we could make it so. We could resolve to go to church more. Or make our 3 words be about the church. But that isn’t generated from a place of faith. It is, at best, from a place of yearning.
Luckily we have something completely separate from New Year’s to inspire us.
Christmas is About Change.
Let’s not fool ourselves. In spite of all our rituals and traditions which tie us to better times and moments of great potency for our lives, Christmas isn’t about the past. It’s always about the present. And the future.
All that nostalgia softens the blow of getting another year older and the distance from those magical days of youth. It curtails the impulse to hate new things by the ecstasy of anticipation and surprise.
We give gifts and sing songs of change and celebrate in a “spirit” of difference from the selfishness of the world, with our Christmas spirit of generosity and love for all humankind.
And besides all of that, duh! It’s about God fundamentally changing the rules.
Rules of the world. Of order. Society. Everything. Christmas is the birth of a rebellion. If you don’t believe me, reread the Greek Scriptures (New Testament).
The foundational stories of Christmas highlight the birth of the one future catalyst for the world.
Not just one who changed things by being born and then did a divine mic drop and crawled off stage.
The baby had to grow into a boy. Then a man. A rabbi and a prophet. One who would collect followers and disciples. One who would confront the religious and political establishment in Jerusalem, suffer a terrorist’s fate, brutalized, humiliated, and dying abandoned and alone.
Radical, fundamental changes over the course of decades, two generations.
But God wasn’t done. The script needed to be flipped. A true revolution in the resurrection.
Christmas is Still About Change.
We could be forgiven if we thought that revolution was over. The change has happened. It’s done.
That Jesus came, did his thing, balanced some divine checkbook for God, said “peace out” and went to chill with Pops up in the sky, sitting in a big chair for eternity. Christians have certainly talked about the Incarnation that way.
But come on! What’s the point of a Jesus who never comes back? Who taught that he keeps showing up when we get together with other people? That guy isn’t stuck on a throne, getting eternally bored sitting next to his old man who has nothing better to do than stroke his beard and say “Man, I wish my people would get their acts together!”
We read a story about fundamental, world-altering change so we can…what? Be exactly the same this time next week?
For twelve days, we celebrate the Incarnation with our thoughts and prayers and our hopes and our dreams. We sing and gather and eat and celebrate for this small season. Then what comes next?
Epiphany and the Baptism. The awakening. The true beginning of Jesus’s work and ministry. The babymoon is over and we find ourselves front and center with a Jesus who is always about transformation.
The entire concept is built around change. We don’t get to say “one and done”. Because the whole thing is change. It isn’t just change here at the beginning and then a whole lotta kickin’ back and takin’ it easy! The dude’s out in the field harvesting the crops from the word go!
Christmas is the Beginning of Our Transformation.
It isn’t one and done because it also isn’t about small tiny little changes. It’s the big story and a lifetime of transforming.
Christmas is the beginning.
(Actually Advent is the beginning, but I’m not going to quibble. Let’s just agree that this all of a piece.)
The beginning. Not the whole thing. Not like a stand-alone movie, but more like the pilot of a show that got picked up for three seasons.
If we look at our faith like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, where we get to pick and choose the best Jesus to pray to, then we’re bound to also pick and choose what faith actually looks like. Unsurprisingly, a lot like we already are.
We don’t get to stay with the baby Jesus. Jesus has to change and grow. So does our faith. It must grow.
Growing as we celebrate a Christ revealed to the whole world, not just the faithful. A Christ revealed in unlikely ways: a baby; a prophetic, itinerant preacher; a poor Messiah with an upside-down kingdom; Revealed in death, resurrection, and ascension.
A faith growing with us as it reveals the Christ in us, given by the Spirit to share with each other. Commissioned by GOD to love the world, full of hope. As we are: creatures of constant change: children of a GOD who has no reason to fear change. Children who grow up with a profound responsibility: to grow up. To change. And with our faith, bring justice and peace to the world. To literally change the world.