At the Freshco this week, they were cranking out the Christmas music. “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree”, “I’ll be home for Christmas”. The usual line up. Alvin and the Chipmunks singing “All I want for Christmas.” The odd person hummed along. Some seemed slightly annoyed. A young couple walked by me. “There’s gotta be some kind of rule”, the man mutters to no one in particular. “The third week of November? Pleeeeez . .”
Items in the news this week: Thousands of migrants from Central America continue their trudge north towards the US-Mexico border. We wonder how bad their lives must be back home for them to be willing to endure that journey. Hazing incidents at St Michael’s College in Toronto that result in 6 students charged with sexual assault. Over 60 people dead from the California fires, hundreds still missing. Which ironically adds fuel to another fire, the whole climate change debate.
Locally, Mike Scott died this week at 44 years old. A firefighter and a beloved father and husband who suffered from PTSD. No rhyme or reason. Sometimes death comes uninvited, unwanted, just way too early.
Small wonder people search for meaning. Something to give them peace of mind, and hope for tomorrow. As I walked toward the checkout, Bruce Springsteen’s spirited rendition of “Santa Claus is coming to Town” just wasn’t doing it. At least not for me.
That night, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” came on the TV. I plopped down on the couch beside our daughter Haven, who is now 15 (say it ain’t so). “Haven”, I chirped. “Do you remember when we used to watch this when you were little? It’s a classic.” In typical 15 year-old fashion, she managed to contain her enthusiasm.
You know the story. Charlie Brown gets the tree, which turns out to be scrawny and pitiful. Everybody makes fun of it. Christmas, they say, should be grand and beautiful and huge. Standing beside his tiny tree, Charlie Brown throws up his hands in exasperation: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Linus gets them all back on track. He walks out onto the stage, calls for the lights, and reminds his friends of the true meaning of Christmas. “And Lo, and angel of the Lord came upon them, saying ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today a Saviour is born to you. He is Christ the Lord”.
Every time I sit through that scene, I get a wee lump in my throat. We have a Saviour. My heart, in some way, is changed. I don’t really know why. Linus just tells it like it is. In the middle of all the fluff and mall muzac and uncertainty that comes with living in a broken world, we just need to hear the story like it is.
It’s about the wonderful mystery of how a loving God could possibly be alive in this dark world. And not just that God is alive, but that God comes in the smallest, humblest ways. And that God is so incredibly near. And in the power of that presence, darkness becomes light, and despair turns to joy.
That’s the meaning. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. God’s love is alive. The miracle continues, because, we’re now called to share the same love, and to live in out in our lives. And that sharing will change the world, and bring us joy and peace.
I’ll tell you one thing, Haven believes it. She didn’t say it, but I could see it in her eyes. “That’s what Christmas is all about. Jesus and the angels.” “Ya got that right” I think to myself.
We look forward to celebrating the presence of Christ with you this season. For those of you who have not been able to join us regularly, we ask that you pray for us as we do for you.
May the peace of Christ be with you, now and always.
“The shepherds returned from the stable, and they were full of joy and they praised God for all the things they had seen and heard”. Luke 2:20