When someone speaks of their desire to put the Christ back into Christmas, I like to ask which part of Christ is missing: the revolutionary or sacrificial?
The Christmas Story is told in the stories of giving shoes and coins
Christmas III | John 1:1-14
read, listen, or read while you listen!
Several years ago, when my daughter was very young she was convinced every person should wear shoes in their favorite color. Because…why not? Why wouldn’t you?
She loved pink, so she wanted pink shoes!
Mommy loves red, so she should get red shoes!
So when Rose asked her what they should get me for Christmas, she said
Daddy loves orange, so we should get him orange shoes!
I was serving a big well-to-do church in Georgia at the time; the kind in which a simple suit or a dress was the baseline and the little old ladies would keep track of how shined the priests’ shoes were; and as the assistant, I drew the smaller crowd of the Christmas Day service.
We celebrated the Feast of the Incarnation with great joy and below this very alb were my orange shoes. I shared how thankful I was that my daughter gave me these orange shoes and how much I wanted to please her.
I never heard about my choice of footwear again.
God Is Here
This time of year, we often hear about “the true meaning of Christmas” and I wonder if we love what Christmas reveals.
That God breaks into the world. Or, more importantly, that God is embedded in the cosmos and we treat her so poorly.
That from the beginning of everything, God was. And God is. And God will be. Revealing to our ancestors that God will be there howsoever God will be there. God is binging a new people, a new creation. God stays with us when we don’t deserve it.
The whole arc of our tradition reveals a God so generous and a people so vain and selfish.
The Christmas Teachings
This year, I have been talking about the ancient pattern of worshipping the full Christmas cycle. That our ancestors gathered at the setting sun, in dark, at dawn, and in the light of the new day.
This was for me, a great joy because each part is important.
Each part has it’s own gospel story.
Dusk: the Genealogy from Matthew.
Night: the birth and announcement to shepherds from Luke.
Dawn: the announcement to shepherds and their arrival in Bethlehem.
Day: the prologue to John.
For this great night that has passed, we read John as the culmination of everything we’ve witnessed.
The darkness didn’t overcome the light. It came. Because that is what God does. But it is so hard for us to remember that God never left. God is with us and has been from the beginning.
Our Rebellious God
Our rebellious God who zigs when we zag, goes high when we go low, also goes weak when we demand God be strong. God goes nurturing when we demand a stern rebuke. God reveals the Word in a baby when the world expects a king.
God offers us a world of generosity when we fear for scarcity.
Love when we are full of sorrow.
Hope when we are stuck in our ways.
The Christmas story is a story of comfort for the suffering, but a provocation for the comfortable. Because God cares more for love and justice than order. Hope and joy than fear and hatred.
And God is not above bending the rules.
The Heart of Christmas
I recently heard that St. Nicholas was THE saint of the first thousand years of Christianity. Kind of like Francis has been THE Saint of the last thousand years.
And many of us know the stories about Nicholas—how he was made a bishop at a young age and how he would give generously. But one part of the story struck me because the words had never been spoken plainly to me before.
The speaker, Alexander Shia, was talking about the true meaning of Christmas is born from the self-sacrificial act of Nicholas. He would collect gold coins during a time of great poverty, to give young women and girls a dowery.
He did this anonymously, of course. Which sounds like a great thing to do, of course. But he did it to save them. Because without a dowery, these girls would be sold into sexual slavery.
This is the spirit of Christmas.
Nicholas died in poverty, but the countless women who were free of physical, psychological, and spiritual harm is uncountable.
A Love Rebellion
So we gather together as this small communion this morning. When we could all be somewhere else. Unwrapping and feasting or just sleeping in. Because we know the birth of Jesus isn’t the whole story.
It’s a great story! But it’s not the whole story.
We’re in the middle. Many chapters have been written and many more to come. But we’re God’s writing partners.
In giving love and hope to one another, sharing in what they long for, tapping into the wisdom of our children and the ignorance of our elders offering ourselves like Christ to a new creation. A new world born of love and rebellion.
A love rebellion colored by gold coins and high-tops.