Right now, there are probably many of us who imagine gathering with those we love under our Christmas trees in a few days to unwrap presents and bask in the warm glow of gift-giving. Before you know it, the wrapping paper will be crumpled on the floor, the dishes from the family feast in the dishwasher, the extra cars in the driveway gone, and the traditions of the season will be fading in the rear-view mirror. It’s all seems to be over almost before it got started!
Continuity…or lack of it…is on my mind this year. As I read the closing verses of that text we hear every year at pageants and candlelight services, I can’t help but think about what is steadfast: “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Sure, the shepherds visit the manger and leave “praising God for all they had heard and seen.” But when the baby they visit becomes an adult and bursts on the scene many years later, there is no mention of them among Jesus’ early followers. Their enthusiasm is real but (at least in the context of Luke’s entire story) seems temporary. For Mary, Jesus’ mother, things are necessarily different. Mary witnesses Jesus’ birth, His early ministry, His crucifixion, and the events surrounding His resurrection. She is the ordinary person linking the events before the earthly ministry of Jesus with events after it. Perhaps she overheard from the shepherds the angelic song “Glory in the highest…and on earth, peace!” and considered how this song compared to the shouts that greeted her Son as He entered Jerusalem before his death: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38). She would come to know better than anyone else on the scene that in His birth--and in His death/resurrection--Jesus was a bringer of peace.
Our enthusiasm surrounding the celebration of Jesus’ birth will ebb and flow, but the gift of love from a God enthroned in a manger AND on a cross demonstrates God’s lasting and never-flagging commitment to us, the people of His promise. God’s Spirit is poured out by the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins over us when we feel broken and burdened. God’s holy Word and the Sacraments sustain us when life appears to challenge us over the long haul.
The King of Kings has been born. What does steadfast allegiance to this king look like? How will such allegiance endure not only during this Christmas season, but all year long? How will that allegiance transform the way you interact with the people who are closest to you right now? The King of Kings has died, but now lives so that you and I might live forever! Take time to ponder that, this year. After all the presents are opened and the wrapping paper is thrown away, you’ll truly have something to treasure.