Glancing through The New York Times website, I spotted this title, “Christmas Season Starts in November. Deal With It.” Clicking on the link led me to the article where the author explained that she was once an “irascible Grinch” appalled at how Christmas encroached on her sense that people should wait to decorate until after Thanksgiving but she had given up that view. For the author, the early sunset at 4:30 with colder temperatures along with busy schedules in December were a good reason for “Christmas Creep.” Early decorating also gave her time to bask in memories of her childhood.
We all sense that the celebration of Christmas arrives earlier than in the past. Some of us had childhoods where your family decorated the tree on Christmas Eve. Every generation senses the difference between what you remember in your childhood and what you see now. Whether these changes are good or bad is something of us decides individually. How different our country is from 1659 when the Puritan government of Massachusetts Bay Colony banned Christmas as an unnecessary holiday that distracted from religious discipline.
Sadly, what I see happening with Christmas today reminds me of a river I saw once in Alaska. As you look at the river, you see water coming from two sources. One source is melted glacier snow and the water is clear while the second source is your typical murky river water. Together the waters flow side-by-side. Some people observe Christmas for weeks beginning in November and others wait until Advent ends and the liturgical season of Christmas arrives and goes into January.
All the focus about the time and duration of Christmas and how we should or should not observe it made me think of Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he wrote, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” The “fullness of time” came about as the completion of what God had been doing to get ready for the arrival of his Son. Jews were convinced of monotheism and had no use for idolatry. Greek had become the universal language with even the Old Testament translated into Greek. The Roman Empire had established a fragile peace over many countries, and the Romans had built roads that missionaries would soon use as they went out to share the Good News.
God had prepared a specific time for the arrival of his Son; he continues to prepare us for our annual celebration of the birth of the Savior. The season is a time to prepare for Christ’s first arrival in Bethlehem. The days can be busy with trying to fit in all kinds of events and preparations for the holiday. Enjoy the lights, sights, sounds, and smells of the days before and after Christmas. I encourage you to find time to read again the familiar readings of Advent and Christmas as part of your holiday preparations. Every year brings us the opportunity to reflect on the mystery of God’s love in that his design for our salvation included his own Son coming to earth in human flesh in an obscure town and poor setting.
Another fullness of time is still to come. When the time is full again, He will come back with his Second Coming in the future. The book of Hebrews promises us (9:28), “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” When that fullness will arrive no one knows, but thanks be to God, the first arrival of his Son has brought forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life, all preparing us for his Second Coming.
Pastor Michael Dorner