On a walk along the sea shore not long after Christmas Day a number of years ago, I spied a Christmas tree being washed up by the waves, its tinsel trailing like seaweed in the water. It was a woe-begotten site.
A couple of years ago, I overheard the manger of a local pharmacy briefly and wearily express his dislike of Christmas to an employee who was stocking shelves.
As Christians, we understand how these ways of marking Christmas fail—fail the Earth, fail our souls, fail Christ. And so, how do we Christians mark Christmas in ways that nurture Creation and our souls, and that honour Christ? Happily, the texts for this Sunday in Christmas are full of ideas!
The reading from Samuel, about the young boy growing and serving in the temple, is chosen to mirror the reading from Luke, one of the rare stories from Jesus’ childhood. As an infertile woman who has prayed her own Hannah prayer (answered in our adopted son), the poignant story of Hannah making a little robe to take to her son each year tugs at my heart. Caring for our children, for all children, enough that we teach them to seek the LORD is a good way to celebrate Christmas.
Psalm 148 is a raucous, party psalm. It’s a no holds bar call to praise the LORD, from the bugs that creep in and on the Earth to the angels in heaven. Personally, I am now on the hunt for a new Christmas ornament of a sea monster praising the LORD. The psalm calls for the LORD’s praise for Creation, for the LORD’s glory that is above earth and heaven, for the LORD’s justice that trumpets to the world. Spending time in worship together, praising God, is a good way to celebrate Christmas.
The Colossians text implores us as a Christian church to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. And, above all, love. These are our Christmas outfits. We are further called to bear with one another, and to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us. The story of Christmas knows the suffering and brokenness in ourselves and in the world, and Jesus brings healing we are to also share with one another. The peace and word of Christ is to rule in us, and we are to gift one another with teaching and admonish one another in all wisdom. These are good Christmas gifts. Finally, with gratitude, we are to sing psalms (148!), hymns, and spiritual songs to God. These are all good ways to celebrate Christmas.
In the passage from the gospel according to Luke, twelve-year-old Jesus is already teaching us what we are to be about as his disciples. His parents experience one of the worst things a parent can endure—searching for a child thought to be lost in a bustling, international city. I can imagine how they may have felt, failing God by losing his Son already! So worried are they that they admonish him upon finally finding him in the temple, asking questions and listening, seeking God. And Jesus wonders why he would have been so hard to find.
Seeking God is a good way to celebrate Christmas. Seeking God is a lifetime quest, and the season of Christmas gives us twelve days to celebrate this in a myriad of ways, for the glory of God and the sake of God’s beloved world.