A priest friend of mine asked a group of second graders, “Advent is a time of getting ready…. Who is coming?” They all answered, “Santa Claus!”
We smile at this, but this is what much of our culture thinks of at Christmas. A jolly guy, over at Macy’s, in a red suit, squeezes himself down a chimney and brings toys. And because he gives gifts, we all exchange gifts. And there are reindeer pulling a big sled, and one of them has a shiny red nose that doubles as a searchlight in the event of a storm.
And some people put a plastic baby in a little manger scene and line up shepherds and the wise men and the angels. We shop, send Christmas cards, decorate our homes and get ready for family time because family time together is what Christmas is all about.
The secular trends and popular customs are harmless in moderation, but a steady diet of Disney Christmas dulls the memory of why we Christians celebrate the feast at all.
But here is what we Christians might remember this season: That in Bethlehem, God was born. That the Child came to save us from our sins. That His name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. That this child was born to die. That His name, Jesus, means Savior.
That although born in an obscure village and to humble circumstances, and although He would write no books, and live publicly for only a brief three years, no person has left such an indelible mark on human history as this man. That this Bethlehem Child makes the difference between a life of quiet desperation and a life of meaning and purpose.
By His own will, Christ was dependent on Mary, His mother. During her Advent, He was absolutely helpless. He could go nowhere but where she chose to take Him. He could not speak. Mary’s breathing was His breath, His heart beat in the beating of her own heart.
Today, Christ is dependent upon us. This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us. During this time of Advent we must carry Him in our hearts to wherever He wants to go. And there are many places to which He may never go unless we take Him.
That says it all…. Advent is the time when we, like Mary, carry Christ who will not be there unless we take Him. Advent is the time when we must pause and remember that Jesus – not Santa or Rudolph – is the main event.
To recall that Christmas is not a holiday, or a politically correct term, but a holy day when we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world! If this world, this nation, if you and I as a faith community are going to roll back the darkness, Advent is the time to begin. A new year, a new beginning, a time when darkness begins to slip. Then, hopefully, in your life and mine, and in the lives of those we touch, the Son, Jesus, will begin to rise.
And for those of us who carry dark memories and heavy burdens, whose hearts are hurting, whose faith is weak, whose doubts are strong, whose anger is justified, remember what the scripture tells us about Jesus…., “They shall name Him Emmanuel, which means, God is with us.”