Luke 2:13-20. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
“Three hours.” When I heard that, I wasn’t sure I could endure it and listen for three hours. I was planning on attending my town’s joint community and college choir performance of the full work of Handel’s Messiah with a friend, and even having played some of Handel’s work before on my clarinet, I winced. I even asked my friend if it would be ok to skip out if we’d had enough by intermission. But something special and unexplainable and even holy happened some time between the harpsichord’s first note and the choir’s last lyrics. I heard a bigger song amid the solos and choruses and the sheet music of the orchestra.
I was drawn into the story—a bigger story.
And three hours passed by more quickly than I had ever imagined.
Christmas draws us into a bigger story—a story that goes beyond the parts and performers and connects to us. More than nostalgia and traditions and ceramic nativity sets, Christmas tells us the story of God’s eternal love for us and how we may be as imperfect as the shepherds, but we’re invited to come to him. Christmas weaves together a myriad of voices to serve God’s plan, letting us know that Jesus is God and we are not. And God is still on the throne, despite what the government does or does not do, despite messed up families and inconvenient situations and unbelievable news. If Christmas is only a day to prepare for, an adjective for carols and cookies, a reason to give gifts, we’re missing the point.
This Christmas, you can leave at the intermission, or you can stay to listen for the bigger story God is telling and the role he is inviting you to play. This Christmas, you can check the box for church or you can take a risk and enter into the beautiful, yet messy community that is the Church. This Christmas, you can give gifts to needy people or you can enter into a spirit of generosity, blessing others with which God has blessed you. This Christmas, you can see ministry as what the paid clergy, staff and missionaries do, or begin to do ministry and join in God’s redemptive mission where you are, with whom he’s put in your life.
Christmas reminds us that, indeed, God IS always speaking—even when the angels aren’t singing.
Are you listening?