I was honoured to be asked to write an article for the special Christmas supplement that was delivered in the December 19th, 2013 issue of the West Carleton Review and other EMC newspapers in the west Ottawa area. Please find the text below:
12/19/2013 ~ Christmas is indeed around the corner! I think my first glimpse of Christmas product in a store this year happened around Thanksgiving and I’m quite sure I saw Christmas ornaments placed on shelves on the day of Halloween. On the one hand I often see this early Christmas excitement and wish stores would wait. Other times I feel blessed that the anticipation for Christmas is one that many members of our society continue to find meaningful. In the rich diversity of religious observances in the Ottawa area many families spend time with family for Hanukkah, Eid, and Kwanzaa but in our Christian tradition we celebrate Advent (‘the coming of Christ’) which culminates on Christmas Eve, when we consider the story of a baby born in a barn.
If you have a nativity set in your home or if you’ve seen one you may indeed have a picture of a very nice and peaceful barn; in which even the animals are sparkling clean. But anyone who lives in a rural community knows that having a baby in a barn is probably not the sparkling pristine and peaceful picture that the average nativity set portrays.
Now if I were God, I’d have done it differently. I’d have sent a messiah to be born in a castle surrounded by the best doctors, nannies, tutors, and bodyguards, coddled and safe, raised up to rule. But that isn’t what happened in the story! Instead a man named Joseph packed up his little donkey, and traveled ever-so-gently and slowly with the very pregnant Mary, all the way down from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They are alone, not surrounded by any support when Mary is ready to have her baby. Instead they are surrounded by hay and dirt and animals, and the stuff of a barn. After delivering a child all on their own they were probably frightened, frustrated, tired, and worried. But yet it is this moment that is a moment of great joy for Christians around the world.
Celebrating Christmas is rejoicing in the decision by God to enter the world as a vulnerable baby and for our faith communities this is what the anticipation and excitement of the season is all about.
Jesus’ birth demonstrates to Christians that God chose to enter the world in a very different way than what some may have expected. We celebrate that God’s choice to enter into the raw and vulnerable realities of humanity means that God enters the humanity of our lives as well.
Christmas is a time when we are reminded that God is with us in every aspect of our lives. When we are joyful and when we are sad. When we have just lost our job and don’t know what the future holds or when we have just got a new job. When we are celebrating a marriage or a birth. But also when we are experiencing loss or feel the challenges of parenting frustrating and exhausting. God is with us when we are overflowing with joy around times like Christmas… and with us if we can’t seem to get over depression and anguish that makes us feel blue during the holidays. God is just simply with us; that is what the birth of God in the person of Jesus is all about. That is what Christmas is about.
We rejoice because God seeks to exist in all that is humble and ordinary; in our families, our community, our homes and even our barns. Not to some stronger, cleaner, more perfect people or places. But to you and I, amidst all of our imperfections.
So indeed Christmas is a time for celebration. A time to jump at the opportunity to create special times with our families and have turkey supper. To join communities of worship in churches throughout our neigbourhoods. To give gifts to those we love. To support those in need.
So when Christmas items are stocked on shelves earlier and earlier each year I understand the anticipation and the excitement because Christmas is about a very special baby who was born in a barn and for Christians that is something to celebrate.
The Reverend Monique Stone (www.huntleyparish.com)