It’s the first Friday in December. That means our little town swings into Christmas mode tonight in a big way. At 5:00 p.m. the main street in the center of town will be blocked off and stages will be set up, tables in most of the shops will be stocked with wine, cheese, hot cocoa and other treats, and Santa’s house will be brought in for his arrival. Then, in the following couple of hours, choirs will sing, bands will play, speeches will be made, the big tree in front of Town Hall will be lit, and Santa will ride into town on a vintage 1920s fire truck and set up shop in his house, ready to meet with the children already lined up and waiting to see him.
(It was on one of these nights just a few years ago when, after seeing Santa in his house, a very young Chandler tugged on Marti’s arm and whispered, “Those are not real boots Santa’s wearing, but don’t tell Christopher and Anne; they’d be so disappointed.” Chandler has been a dead-on realist ever since.)
This scene, I’m sure, will be repeated in cities and towns across America. It’s an official beginning — the ushering in of Christmas, as if it took something official to start it, and aside from all the commercialism which undoubtedly drives it, it is an evening marked by a genuine spirit of gladness and good will. Children will be bundled up, eyes will be bright, and a season of expectations will begin.
And yet, under the surface, not all is bright and cheery. Homes are dysfunctional, families are splitting up, memories of lost loved ones will bubble up, tensions will rise as bank accounts try to meet unmeetable expectations; while on the streets many continue to go without food and shelter, with all the lights and laughter making their situation even more sad and despairing than it already is.
Into all this comes the Christ child, who, thank God, is no longer a child. And it’s my quiet issue with the tradition of Advent, which I understand, because if Christ hadn’t come …unthinkable! So, we celebrate His coming which is all well and good, but when we all so desperately need to make use of the fact that He is already here, it makes all this “coming” stuff seem a bit superfluous. We can look forward to Santa on Christmas eve all we want, but don’t wait for Christ, and especially not a child. We need Jesus, and we need Him now, and thank God He’s available right now. Some of us need Him to get through all this waiting for Him to come!
So, this Christmastime, allow yourself to be His hands feet and heart to those who can’t wait for a Christ child. They need love, support and a listening ear; they need to know God’s arms are wide open to them — the Gospel of Welcome — they need grace and mercy, the same as was extended to us; and many of them need a blanket, something warm to eat and a place for the night. And they need it now.
We need Him for ourselves, and our own needs, and we need Him in order to have something to give to those who need Him too. Thank God He’s already here!