It’s Christmas Day and I’m still not sure I have totally figured it all out. At the Christmas Eve service last night, I commented that I really didn’t miss much of the Christmas traditions that I had skipped. I had bought a few gifts for Bekah and Caleb, but not much more than that. I certainly didn’t miss that. I had avoided Christmas music for the most part. I really didn’t miss that (though I do have to admit that I kind of missed performing Christmas music, but that’s a whole other story). I think what I missed most was having Bekah and Caleb around.
Robyn and I spent almost the whole day at home. (We ended up going to my in-laws for a little bit in the evening to drop off a couple of things.) It was a spectacular day. Elwood had some gifts to open, which we did after coffee and hot biscuits in the morning. For lunch, we ate fresh fruit and hot cocoa while we played Rummy. Honestly, we didn’t do much at all, but we did it together. It only could have been better if Bekah and Caleb were home with us.
But I think the greatest moment that I had and the one that celebrated Christmas most for me was after the Christmas Eve service. Before the service began, I was in the kitchen at the church preparing for the service. I planned on serving hot cocoa and cookies during the service as a treat and I was boiling water. As I sat there by myself, a knock came on the back door. I opened it to find one of the neighborhood boys standing there holding a pellet gun. He asked if it would be okay for him and his friends to use the church property to run around a little and have a game of “tag”. (He assured me that the pellets they were using to “tag” each other didn’t hurt and that there would be no damage to the church or the property. His yard was just too small to have any sort of fun.) I told him that we had a bunch of people coming for service at 7:00 and that it would be okay as long as they didn’t get in the way or scare anyone. With that, off he ran.
The service went off okay and I didn’t hear anything more from them until later. Once the service was over, there were just a few of us left in the sanctuary. I was talking with this last group as we all walked toward the doors to leave, when I saw the four boys from earlier come running up on the church steps wielding their weapons and yelling at one another. In a flash, they were gone again enjoying their time together. I said goodbye to my last group and turned to say something to my wife when the four boys came up on the porch again.
At this, I opened the front door of the church and yelled “Hey”! All four boys stopped and looked at me. Then the one that I had spoken to earlier dejectedly said, “Okay, we’ll get going”. At this, I stopped them all again and announced that we had leftover cookies and hot cocoa that needed to be used up and that they should come in and get some before I threw it away.
They stayed for an hour.
I think what I learned this year is that what is sorely missing for me is a true sense of community. Traditionally, Christmas has been about friends, family, and community. If you were to look at all of the hoopla surrounding Christmas today for evidence of its meaning, you’d think it was about gifts, copious amounts of decorations, food, and political correctness.
Even well-meaning Christians have gotten in the way. The meaning of Christmas has gotten lost, at times, in the story of Christmas. Some mix up the beginning of the story with the end of the story and spend far too much time looking at the miracle of Christ’s birth rather than understanding the magnitude of the fact that Christ was born at all. In other words, for some it is as important that Christ be born “without sin” (whatever that means) as it is that he was born at all. Put another way, even Christ’s birth had everything to do with setting up his death.
Why can’t it be a simple story with a simple message? Christ was born! End of part one. What does the rest of the story tell us? We have tried so hard to attach such meaning to every part of Christ’s life. Maybe that is because we are all trying so hard to find meaning in our own.
I don’t know if this grand experiment that I’ve called my Swiss Christmas is going to have any long term repercussions. (My brother wished me a Merry Swiss-mas on Sunday.) It’s too early to tell. I don’t know what I’ll bring in to next year’s celebration, if anything. But I do know that something has changed inside of me. The search for meaning in the things that I do and that I ask others to do has only begun. And it will never end.
I’m only starting to realize the full extent of the radical message that Christ delivered that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is here and it is now. And as I start to live that message out in my life even more, I hope I have more opportunities to encounter people in new and different ways whether that be in having hot cocoa and cookies during worship, or inviting kids in to enjoy them afterwards.