Christmas is one of those events that has a lot of anticipation associated with it. Certainly, well before Thanksgiving the retail stores began to decorate for Christmas, everywhere we go there is Christmas music playing in the background, and our mailboxes – of all types – began to fill with promotions for Christmas shopping.
But that’s OK. There are lots of events in our life that have that same pattern of anticipation, heightened activity, and finally the day comes. Here is a short list of such events of our lives
- Your first day of high school
- Moving into the dorm at college
- Your first job after college
- Getting married
- Your first home
- Your first child (…second child and more until you have at least four and then you can have your own swimming relay team!)
- Their first day of your children’s school, high school, college… and so the cycle continues.
The same in our faith tradition: we have Advent leading up to Christmas. Last week we even took a break to look ahead and joyously celebrate Gaudete Sunday – “Rejoice, I say again Rejoice…” Gaudete Sunday is an official church day of anticipation for Christmas. And here we are at Christmas.
It is not just this year, but every year. And it has been this way since before the time of Jesus. The Prophet Isaiah, more than 2,500 year ago, looked forward to this day of “abundant joy and great rejoicing” when he prophesied: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” And the people of God waited and anticipated – through the days and nights, joys and sorrows, and all that makes up the cauldron of this life. They had faith that the day would come.
And then, out of the dark night sky, there shown above shepherds in the fields, the glory of the Lord and angels who proclaimed good news of great joy: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” And then the heaven exploded in an angelic chorus.
Think of the anticipation those shepherds felt as they hurried into Bethlehem to witness what the angels proclaimed. You know, even the Gospel readings for Christmas Eve and Day have this pattern of anticipation culminating in the one moment. The Vigil Mass recounts the genealogy of Jesus – all the generations leading to this day. The Mass during the Night (aka “Midnight Mass”) tells us of the shepherds in the field, but there is no trek into Bethlehem. That gospel is read at the Christmas Day mass in the morning.
Be it on the grand scale of the history of Redemption, the celebration of one year’s Christmas, or so many events of our life – there is the pattern of anticipation all pointing towards “the day”- be it Christmas, the first day of college, your wedding day, and so much more.
And comes the day after Christmas, the second day of college, the end of the honeymoon and the start of building a life together.
Here at Christmas we are again asked to recall the words of St. Paul to Titus: “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age.” And to carry those words and these memories into the cauldron of life, to face the next day. Likewise, to recall:
- Your first day of college – to remember what you hoped to achieve and to renew your efforts toward that goal.
- Your wedding day – to remember the covenant vows you exchanged and go back to the work of building a life together in love.
- The moment you child your child in your arms – all the promises you made – and to again strive to make those promises come true.
And Christmas – to remember the warm glow of this evening, the close comfort of friends and family, the good cheer, and to recall a Savior has been born to us, saving all, and asking us to be Christ for others. To renew our covenant with God in this Eucharist with our “Amen”, and then to go into world to strive to make the promises of Christ come true for yourself, your loved ones, for friends, and for those you will meet in the days and year to come.
With all the anticipation comes the day, and with the day, comes the day after. We are people of the day after but recall this day in memory and rejoicing, for to us a Savior has been born!