Friday, December 25, 2009

What Is Here and Gone... What Is Here to Stay!

I love Christmas -- don't get me wrong when I complain about the commercial character of what the holiday has become, I love Christmas! I love the family gathered together. I love the gifts (thoughtful and surprising, homemade and carefully purchased). I love sitting down to baked ham, Amy's famous hash brown casserole, green beans, homemade rolls... and don't forget her pumpkin pie and, new this year, a strawberry cheesecake. I love the smell of the house with its cookies fresh from the oven, homemade carmelcorn with mixed nuts, and the white chocolate chex mix. I love delivering goodies to neighbors and friends and having the door bell ring and people dropping off goodies at our house, too.

But these are things of a season and when the season is over, these things also come to an end. That is not a bad thing -- it is the simple recognition of what they are and what they are not. If they continued throughout the year, they would become ordinary and routine and we would seldom notice them anymore. Some of us might wish they would continue -- I am not sure where I stand on this. (My waistline definitely is urging me to say that these should remain occasional and only for a season.)

The Christmass does not leave us when the trees are packed away, the Christmas crowds are a memory, and the music shifts to other seasons. The Christmass does not leave us like the creche, the Advent wreath, the poinsettias, and such. It remains. Christmass heralds the beginning -- the flesh and blood Savior who is born of us, born among us, to live as one of us, in this world with all of its limitations, to live under the law with all of its demands. Christmass heralds the beginning but what it heralds is not withdrawn when the calendar moves on. The Christ whose Nativity Mass is this holy day and festival season remains with us always.

His grace has been born among us to stay with us. His first Advent makes possible His advent in water, Word, bread and wine. Through these means of grace the promise of that birth is kept day in and day out, week after week, until God alone seals its transition to eternity. The promise of Emmanuel is kept in the Manger so that it may be kept in Word and Sacrament -- and this promise will not be withdrawn until He stands upon the earth again with angels in His train to bring to completion all that His birth began.

So the Christmas that I love and that may have only a marginal connection to the Christ Mass of His Nativity -- this may come and go. But the Christ Mass of His Nativity heralds the beginning of what He will never withdraw -- grace big enough to forgive our every sin, mercy wide enough to embrace every sinner, hope strong enought to raise every despairing heart, comfort rich enough to sustain the lonely, the suffering, and the grieving, and peace that may pass understanding but does not pass us by... not until He signal the end of the glimpse and the beginning of the face to face mystery of eternity for us and all who receive Him.

What is here and will soon be gone... this season of celebration, decoration, and feasting --- it can come and go... but the "Lo, I am with you always" is just that -- always with us.

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