Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The way we do Christmas shows the need for traditional, liturgical Christianity

Big blizzard with up to a foot & a half of snow possible between Wednesday afternoon and the end of Christmas Day on Friday.

Many people will say, "Aw, I had to miss Christmas," meaning they didn't get to a service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. For so many Christians, Christmas ends when the mall muzak stops.

But those of us in liturgical churches are just gettin' started. We have a Christmas season that is all about Christ, not shopping. It begins on Christmas Eve and lasts until January 6. This Christmas season, we actually get two Christmas Sundays (Dec. 27 & Jan. 3).

The First Sunday after Christmas, I like to remind my congregations, is a chance for believers to dwell on the meaning of Jesus' birth, not just give a cultural wave to camels, donkeys, tinfoil halos, or to the revisionist assertion that it was a date grabbed by the church just to ruin a lovely pagan celebration of peace, justice and being one with nature or something.

The liturgical calendar was established by the church to make an annual presentation of the whole New Testament - of Jesus Christ himself. Not just one mystery, teaching or manifestation, but the whole apostolic testimony to what Jesus said and did, and what he left his church to do until he comes again. It is all about the fullness of God revealed in Jesus. Christ's birth is humble, yet he is the absloute ruler who will "come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end." "You must be born again," but you must also "grow up into the full stature of Christ." Christ made the one perfect sacrifice for our salvation, yet we must "share in his sufferings if we are to share in his glory." The liturgical year can smash our selective slogans on the cornerstone of Christ himself, and be a means of grace to become truly reliant upon him as we gawk at the fragments of any inert Jesus we've tried to fabricate.

The Gospel at the link above, always read on the Sunday after Christmas, is the Prologue of John. John gives no narrative of Jesus' birth - instead we get the mystery of just who came into our flesh and blood world. John provides the verse that explains why we should care about Christmas at all:

"And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."

That's the Christmas message - the only thing that separates the wonder of Jesus' birth from the wonder of yours or mine. And it will not be preached or celebrated in most church services on Christmas Eve or Day - only on the Sunday after, when most stay home to sleep them off.

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