The Biblical readings for Advent and Christmas imply that this birth that took place so long ago caught the world (and even some members of his own family) by surprise as it still does even though we start preparing for it well in advance with radio stations playing nothing but Christmas songs from November 1 till January 1 and the big shift last year of "Black Friday" to "Black Thursday (or Thanksgiving)."
How is it possible not to be ready, not to see it coming, this birth of the Christ Child? We've heard over and over the Old Testament stories that this birth was to take place; the entertainment media flood the market with Christmas movies; charities appeal to our compassion for donations to honor the Christ Child. In fact, the whole world seems to be entirely focused, obsessed even with Christmas preparations, so how could we miss it?
The answer to that question is simple - we re-create Christmas in our own image; rather than allowing the startling, scandalous news of a peasant savior-king to break upon and stun us into silence and awe. I am not saying we shouldn't repeat the old family traditions, make the old holiday recipes, show our affection and gratitude with gifts and contributions, party with friends and neighbors, volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters. These are hallowed and wonderful ways to honor the babe of Bethlehem.
What I'm saying is that as the season draws near and our Christmas lists grow, as preparations escalate and the excitement mounts it is more and more difficult to keep in our hearts a quiet place of wonder. How is it, why is it that the Creator of the Cosmos came to us in the unremarkable form of a needy, vulnerable peasant infant? That such a thing took place and takes place still when we celebrate the festival of Christmas is almost too much to behold.
Worship in Advent and on Christmas Eve and on the week after Christmas (and in your daily mediation) creates and keeps that quiet place of wonder in your heart - through the stories and music and rituals - helping us to grasp this amazing truth that God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son. Join us in this high and holy season to begin again the spiritual practice (like Mary who pondered in her heart) of preparing to hear the ancient story again and then coming to terms with what it means for the way we live our lives, conduct our relationships, engage the world around us.