The season of Advent/Christmas is fast approaching. You may disagree with me, but I believe that the significance of Christ’s birth, which we celebrate every Christmas, has lost meaning in this day and age. You can blame secular society all you want for that (the commercialization of Christmas, etc) but I think that even the folks sitting in the churches are just as much to blame.
We’ve been so entrenched in our history, popular culture, and stories passed from generation to generation that we have desensitized ourselves from them. We hear the first line of a familiar saying of a play or a movie or some form of guidelines and we know the rest. We know the story. So we tune ourselves out.
It’s like when you’re traveling somewhere by air and the flight attendants are giving you the safety instructions. How many of you just stop listening after the first few words?
Every Christmas we hear from the Gospel of Luke, “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.” And then I believe many folks’ brains switch off. The familiarity of the story lulls us to sleep. It’s not something done consciously. You’ll still go home and say to yourself that you heard the Christmas story and it was all quite hunky dory. But I question whether we do really hear the Christmas story and feel the full impact of what it means for us.
If we just think that some sweet little baby boy came into the world and was laid in a manger with a bunch of cute animals around then we are missing something pretty significant. The birth of Christ was not the birth of an ordinary man. It was the birth of one of the most unique people in history. The birth of Jesus Christ was the incarnation of God Himself/Herself; it was the bringing of light into a world that longed to be freed from darkness; it was the bringing of light to a nation that had been oppressed; it was monumental.
Caught up in the obligations that the season brings I believe we wander around more focused on getting things done rather than recognizing the significance of the light that enters our world because of Jesus.
The month of December often turns into the time of busyness, and that is all we typically say about the lead up to Christmas. There are band practices, play practices, meetings, parties, gift shopping etc. In my experience this busyness has meant that we generally don’t speak about Christmas with the excitement we once did in our childhood. Granted at an early age we don’t necessarily understand the full scope of what is happening.
Think of the excitement that would have been spreading through the shepherds who had heard from an angel that Jesus, the one that people had been waiting for - God’s son, the deliverer, the Prince of Peace had arrived. I hope that we might lead our lives each and every Advent with that same excitement.
All of the seasons of our Christian calendar are important ones. The one that we approach is often named as a favourite for many. I hope that it is a season where we all recognize that light that others offer to us. I hope that it is a season where we remember to offer our own light to others who may be in the dark. I hope that it is a season where we focus less on the busyness and more on the joy of doing the things we love.
May this Advent be one of discovery, of light and of joy for each and every one of you and may you approach it with the childlike wonder. Amen.
Rev. David E. Campbell is a minister with Park Royal United Church in Charlottetown. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.