The coming of Christ was a holy interruption. It occurred in a very specific place and time — prompting the questions: Why here? Why now?
Most of us grew up with idealized versions of the story from a sanitary stable to a cry-less baby to an assemblage of fawning kings, shepherds and farm animals.
Adding to all of that, a tax appeal had drawn enough travelers to fill the town’s inns. So it’s hard to imagine a night with much silence.
Jesus interrupted more than this occasion. Revealing the very nature of God’s inclusive love through his words and deeds he disrupted the familiar ways of those who assumed God’s favoritism for the few. And still does.
Our romanticized versions of the incarnation — that we trot out for a few weeks once a year — bring comfort and joy. And they should.
But Jesus brought much more than that. He challenges all generations — as he did at that time and place — to experience the truth and grace revealed in what grew out of that manger.
What flowed from the life and teachings of Jesus was freeing and comforting to many, but threatening to those (like Herod and the religious leaders of this time) who didn’t like having their personal authority and convenient understandings of truth challenged. And the words and deeds of Jesus still challenge us — or they should.
That’s why so many who claim him as Savior and Lord largely ignore what Jesus said and did between his youthful visit to the Tabernacle and the Easter celebration. Like Jesus’ harshest critics, they’d rather interpret Jesus in light of Leviticus than the other way around. Or settle for some half-baked idea that God shares their prejudices and judgments on others.
Jesus was indeed the Light of the World. Yet there are still places of darkness — including parts of our minds and hearts. We don’t have it all figured out — and Jesus assured us that the Spirit would bring more light. If we are yet open.
Nostalgia is a big part of our Christmas celebrations — for which I’m deeply grateful. Oh, the cherished memories are already flowing.
Warmly, I recall the bathrobe pageants at church, the Christmas morning arrival of my aunts (who delivered better than Santa), and, as a parent, the looks on the faces of my own daughters reflecting the light of candles and a well-decorated tree. Christmas can and should be mesmerizing.
Smilingly, I recall going home as an adult to see my mother up to her elbows in dried fruit and nuts — swearing for each of the last 10 years of her life that this was the last time she was making fruitcake for me and the very few others who liked it.
It was too much trouble, she said. But I consumed several pieces with cold milk each visit — and never left home without one wrapped in wax paper with a second coating of foil. No fruitcake comes close to Mom’s — a taste blended by her love disguised as complaint and the strong flavor of new-crop black walnuts that my dad reluctantly searched the yards and fields of friends to find each year.
But Christmas is more than our personal memories — as pleasing as they are. And the Christ Child is far more than the favored character in our annual family and church dramas.
Jesus was and is a holy interruption — that can lead us to better understand and experience the fullness of God. Real comfort and joy require, first, our willingness to be disrupted.
If we dare.