Advent-Christmas candlesAs the time approaches for Christmas to fulfill its annual appointment with our hearts and minds and calendars, I am aware of its many multi-valent meanings. In all kinds of climes (from equatorial tropics to deep freezes to stark, wind-swept desert areas) and in all kinds of cultures (from hyper-consumerism to abject impoverishment) and in all kinds of circumstances (from relative peaceableness to strife-riddled, war-torn locations around the globe), the arrival of Christmas brings many different gifts.

Christmas is the recollection of a reclaimed past and the harbinger of a redeemed future.

Christmas is, at once, a lullaby and a “Hallelujah” chorus.

Christmas is a joy-saturated moment of ecstasy and a deeply running river of humble adoration.

Christmas is accepting that God is taking up residence in our neighborhood and allowing God to take up residence in our habits and our hearts.

Christmas is “child’s play,” a pleasure which all of God’s children are invited to enjoy.

Christmas is an equal opportunity gracing experience and the most particularized sort of theological declaration.

Christmas is a “bi-focal” event, attracting our attention in two directions at once – to the skies for the testimony of “a multitude of the heavenly host” and to the earth where a lowly manger offers God’s great gift of love to all.

Christmas is the most crassly exploited of the Christian holy days, and yet its essential mystery is never dulled.

Christmas is the subject of one spectacle after another, and yet its basic simplicity and truth can never be ultimately controlled or defined or warped.

Christmas is about a birthday party for Jesus and about the possibilities of a new birth of faith and love in each of us.

Christmas is early-arriving and late-coming in its appearance. For some of us, Christmas has already come. For others, it will occur well beyond the 25th of December.

Christmas is about God’s fundamental, positive regard for the world, especially for the human creatures therein.

Christmas is a festive occasion – no matter how large or small the meal, regardless of whether a Christmas gathering happens inside or outside church walls – because “when God walks down the stairs,” it’s always time for feasting.

Christmas is a pleasurable treasure-trove for the senses – our senses of sight and sound and smell and taste and touch delight in this incomparable season.

Christmas is remembering that everyone is someone’s baby.

Christmas is an ancient rite and an evergreen sprout of unrepeatable wonder.

Christmas is found at the silent altar of a cathedral and in the rustling leaves of a brush arbor and within a steaming bowl of soup at the homeless shelter.

Christmas is about the fresh gift of healing coming into the world and the hopefulness of Christmas-celebrators, even when prognoses disappoint and chemo fails and surgeries prove less than satisfactory.

Christmas is when the spark of hope flares and the light of peace illumines and the blaze of joy enraptures and the flame of love warms, even in the most distressing of circumstances.

In the end, Christmas is a time to come home – to come home to God, to come home to family and friends and community and the world, to come home to one’s soul and one’s best self.

– Bob Hill

© 2015, RLH

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