Christmas Day was very quiet for us. With children and grandchildren in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and parents in Minnesota and Illinois, only (college student) Erik was “home” for Christmas. Christmas morning gift opening was small but cherished tokens of appreciation from parishioners, friends and family. It only took a few minutes. After phone calls to scattered family, the three of us prepared a casual, impromptu Christmas dinner. Erik returned to his student home.
Nevertheless, this was not anti-climactic. Over the years we have opted out of the cultural and commercial frenzy of the Christmas build up, and have thus avoided the disappointment and depression that can come with the anti-climactic realization that expectations were not met. As a pastor I have long encouraged the observation of Advent as a time of preparation and anticipation, so that Christmas Eve worship can mark the beginning of celebrating for two weeks that at the birth of Jesus Christ, God came to us as a human person.
Though the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (December 25-January 5) seems to lead to ever more extravagant gifts, the season is an invitation to contemplative joy. We felt it with our laid back, improvised Christmas dinner. Our conversation was not particularly Christmasy or identifiably spiritual, but we were surely aware that Christ was present. As I write the house is quiet. Candy is out running errands. As the Old Testament for next Sunday says, “He became their savior in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them.” (Isaiah 63:8-9 NRSV)