Who will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger.
It’s a new year. What is more, we have now moved through the twelve days of Christmas and are entering all that comes next.
The trees are made bare. The lights are being wrapped up. The music has shifted fully back into our usual playlists.
Nevertheless, before we get too far away from the celebration of Christ’s birth, it is worth taking a moment to consider what effect the festivities should have on our lives.
Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about the decorations. It’s not about perfect parties. And it’s certainly not about the presents.
Christmas is about the God of the cosmos loving the creation so much that God entered into it, not out of wrath and vengeance, but out of love. Love that is more powerful than everything, even death itself. Christmas is when we celebrate that Love coming into the world as a light no shadow can ever snuff out.
But what is real love?
We’re about to head careening into Valentine’s Day decorations next month – and I enjoy all the hearts and romance as much as anybody. However, that love cannot compare to the love that Christmas represents.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Paul was writing not to lovers, but to the church. These verses from Corinthians do a better job than most of scripture in describing not only the love we are meant to have for one another, but also the Love that is God’s own Self.
Here’s the rub: If we seek power, if we desire honor, if we care about our reputation above all else, if we think only of ourselves, if we hold onto a sense of control with a white-knuckled grip, if we believe we matter more than others – then the true Love, God, does not rule our lives.
If we who would follow Christ truly want to honor the remembrance of his birth, the only way to do so is to do as Bonhoeffer suggests. We must lay down all that inhibits God’s love taking hold within us.
Only then will we be able to begin again. To start afresh. To find the path God has laid at our feet.
So, as we begin this new year, the new decade, will you begin again?
Just imagine what the world might look like if we finally got out of the way and let God’s love take hold.