The First Christmas
As I think about Advent and Christmas I am deeply saddened that many of our traditions just aren’t possible this year. Even as I write this, our families are working to rearrange Thanksgiving plans in order to comply with Covid precautions. We know that joining together in the Sanctuary holding lit candles and singing Silent Night is not an option. We also know at this point that we won’t be worshipping in person during Advent. There will be no kids Christmas play or Christmas dinner at the church. I am saddened that I will not be able to share with our church kids during the children’s message one of the many fun Advent lessons I have. Very few things will be the same, and that is a hard pill to swallow.
Even as I find myself wanting to hibernate and sleep through this Covid “season,” I am reminded of Mary and Joseph that first Christmas. Their culture had all kinds of traditions and a lot of them got thrown out the window. They had courtship rituals and lifestyle expectations. I am certain that it was not easy for Mary to tell Joseph that she was pregnant. In their culture this carried great shame and should have resulted in Mary’s death by stoning.
Joseph had every right to walk away, but he chose to participate in something outside of the ordinary. Even the trip to Bethlehem was an unusual event, and in a normal setting Mary should have given birth to Jesus surrounded by family and friends, not all alone in a stable.
So, why have I been thinking so much about that first Christmas? The more I contemplate it, the more thankful I am that they were willing to do something not “normal.” We long to hold on to our traditions, to do the things we’ve always done, to cling to something that feels comfortable. If Mary and Joseph had chosen to stick with what was normal, we wouldn’t have Christmas at all. Mary would most likely be dead, Joseph would spend his life grieving for what was, and the Shepherds (who represent all of us) would never even know that something could have happened. Not only would Christmas not be what we have come to expect, but it wouldn’t have happened at all.
Here’s the thing. Jesus’ entry into this world was not easy. In fact, it required a lot of sacrifice and faith. This pandemic has not been easy. Most of us are ready for Covid to be “OVER.” But, the reality is that for the time being it is here to stay, and that means that we need to be willing to make sacrifices and be open to new ways of doing things. If Mary and Joseph hadn’t been willing to make sacrifices, Jesus would not have been born and could not be our Savior. (*Disclaimer: I am certain God would have found another way, but that is a discussion for another day).
This year we will have to do things differently. We will have to make sacrifices. Most importantly we will have to trust God. When Mary and Joseph did those things, Jesus was born. When we do them, I have no doubt that God will work something almost as incredible into our lives. No, it won’t be Christmas as usual, but it will still be Christmas and maybe, just maybe, a new tradition will be born.