I get really tired of hearing things like “Christmas spirit” and “Christmas cheer” mostly because I hate clichés, they make me cringe. Saying things like these also makes Christmas so superficial and feel-goody and naive. I mean, I love that Christmas is “feel-goody”, I think it should be, but I don’t think it should end there. I LOVE Christmas – we’ve been watching Christmas movies since Thanksgiving – and only since Thanksgiving (Caleb has a no Christmas until December rule) because it was Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby, and Caleb has a man crush on Bing Crosby. So where should Christmas go, if to transcend certain clichéd statements about its nature? I’ve never really had a good answer – like a really good answer. I know the obvious answers. You could insert a myriad of clichés here, all with the well-intended purpose to direct Christmas from its materialistic pursuits back to the Bible, but why do we celebrate on Christmas, what about Christ can we learn at Christmas?
The thing that keeps ringing over and over again in my mind is simply the word Immanuel. I don’t know if there is a more beautiful word. We say it all the time – “God with us” – without realizing what it really means or what it calls us to do in response. At youth group a couple of weeks ago, we watched a video with a really fresh perspective on the Good Samaritan. At the end, this man who works at a homeless shelter describes how he walks right by this half conscious man in an alley, obviously in need of help and is called to go back and care for him. He picks up this man he doesn’t know, this man who smells like trash and urine, and carries him to the shelter. I was really struck by this, because I think it describes Christmas. Jesus *willingly* leaves his place of glory to enter into our smelly, sin-soaked existence and carry us to the Father. Not only does he enter in, he does it in the humble, vulnerable way in which the Christmas story describes, showing that love and grace are not about power and success and things, but the kind of joy that can only be found in becoming the least of these. The outpouring of this joy is what we celebrate at Christmas. How can we enter into the lives of one another as Jesus does for us? What would Christmas look like then?