Have you ever caught yourself asking, “Why can’t everyday be like Christmas?” Perhaps it’s because we’re experiencing the emotional high of the celebration. We gather with as many of our family and friends as we can, because it’s a time to be shared with those closest to us. That, in itself, is a cause for joy. We decorate our homes more than any other time of year. We communicate more through cards, phone calls, and other means. Most of us sing more at Christmas than at any other time as well. And then, of course, comes the presents.
Perhaps it’s something more profound. Christmas gives us a glimpse of the world as God intends it to be: a world of peace, love, and reconciliation. On Christmas, it seems that God’s possibilities temporarily break into our realities, if only for a moment. One striking example is the Christmas Day truce of 1914, which spontaneously broke out between German and English troops along the front lines during the First World War. Soldiers disobeyed their commanders’ orders for a day and shared food, drink, humble gifts, and even a football (soccer) match with their enemies. Then, of course, on December 26, they commenced killing each other once again.
Christmas also gives us a glimpse of ourselves as God intends us to be. As Christ is born in our hearts, we are reminded of God’s intention for all of us: that we can be peacemakers and love our neighbors and enemies as God loves us. It’s an opportunity to step away from what we’ve been and become something different. We can stop arguing about things like politics and work in cooperation with others to help make the world better. We can be people who are thankful for what we have and not people who are never satisfied. We can be people who experience the joy of giving to others rather than people who drive ourselves into the grave by trying to acquire everything we can.
At our church, we are preparing for Christmas by reading Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Dickens wrote it to shed light on the hypocrisy of England’s greedy pursuit of wealth at the expense of the laborers, especially children, during the industrial revolution. The attitude is personified in the greedy, selfish, curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. After nightmarish encounters with truth-telling spirits, Scrooge awakens on Sunday, December 25th, filled with joy. He is ecstatic to discover that instead of being doomed to a hellish eternity, he has the opportunity to be generous: it’s still Christmas. “I haven’t missed it!” he shouts. He immediately seizes the opportunity to give. He gives to nearly everyone: to a boy who willingly runs an errand for him, to his employee that he has mistreated, to his nephew whom he has ignored, and to the ailing Tiny Tim. And in the giving, Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed.
Christmas is an invitation to give to others. The truth is, everyday can be like Christmas. We can always give.
Lead Pastor, Braddock Street United Methodist Church