“And they shall call him, Emmanuel, ‘God with us.'” (Matthew 1:23b)
It’s Christmas, in case you haven’t noticed. In August, I went into a small locally run store and found Christmas ornaments for sale. One whole aisle had been set aside for Christmas decorations. After I thought about it for a while, I understood it. We have a lot of out-of-state tourists during the summer months, and many of the decorations were Maine oriented. Who wouldn’t want a black bear, lobster, or fishing ornament for their tree!
Even though I shake my head at Christmas carols being played even as early as the beginning of November and the decorations starting to appear even before Halloween, I understand the merchants desire to make money. But I also know that, as repetitive as it becomes, we keep forgetting the meaning of Christmas.
I noticed that yesterday when I mustered up my courage and drove to the Maine Mall. Between the traffic, driving nearly the entire parking lot to find a place to park the car, walking half a mile just to reach an entrance (I don’t really mind the walking, though), jostling my way through the crowds, and waiting in line, I remembered why I avoid the shopping stuff both on Black Friday as well as the few weeks before Christmas.
Christmas has lost a lot of it’s so-called magic for me. But then, magic isn’t what it’s all about anyway. Christmas is about God-with-us, “Emmanuel.” It’s a reminder that God came to earth to be one of us through Jesus, the Christ. Everything about Jesus was countercultural; he turned things upside down and inside out to get the point across that God loves us and is with us – Emmanuel.
Who would have thought that a baby born to poor parents and living in the scandal of his mother being unwed when she conceived, the scandal of living in Nazareth which wasn’t recognized as a place where the Savior of the World would live and grow up, and the scandal of most everything he did when we touched lepers, ate with sinners, and associated with tax collectors and prostitutes!
Jesus still causes a scandal when he asks us to share God’s love even with our enemies. We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, cause a scandal when we reach out to help others, provide food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, visit the sick and imprisoned, care for the needy, give clothes to the naked, support homeless shelters, and love the unlovable. Emmanuel – “God with us.” Emmanuel – “God working through us.”
Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to all people on earth! Merry Christmas – blessed New Year!