Last night as I eased into my corner of the sofa and assumed a posture that cannot be good for long-term bone health I joined the ranks of Americans throughout our land and channel surfed through my cable options. Soon I landed on the holiday program A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes it is true the time has long past since little feet shuffled about our house insisting on cartoons. Yes it is true that there were other programs that night directed at viewers in my shared demographic. Yes it is true that I am a 48 year old pastor of a distinguished church in a distinguished city. Be that as it may, the channel surfing ended and I settled into an enjoyable thirty minute traipse of nostalgia. The program was first aired in 1965, six months before I was born, so I was literally raised on this annual Christmas privilege. I have heard many a fine sermon during the Advent season and listened to glorious music for the holidays and witnessed exquisite Christmas trees ornamented and arranged, but nothing is as beautiful as Linus’ reading of the birth of Jesus from Luke chapter two or the tree that Charlie Brown picked out for the pageant.
This morning I groggily went through the routines of the early hours including reaching up in the cabinet above the coffee maker for a mug to hold some of the caffeine I would need to take on the day. I am selective about which mug I will use each morning. This time of year we have quite a variety of holiday mugs, many of which I pass over. But there are a few that are in standing rotation – some that go back to my early years of college and one that was given to me last year.
All year long we crave novelty and innovation, but during Christmas we see what is old and familiar. Christmas is a celebration of past memories and experiences, while giving space for hope for the present. I find many are open to new traditions and music and such, but mostly we like the old because it connects us to a much larger community. We hang on to old, tacky ornaments and sing carols written in archaic English because it belonged to those who have gone before us and we hope that these things will carry on long after us.
In a few days our Sanctuary will be filled to capacity for the Christmas Eve Communion and we will see faces we have not seen for a year. There is this goodness, this abiding, comforting goodness that swaddles our expectations with the familiar. Wherever you are and whatever you find yourself doing this Christmas, light a candle, sing a carol, speak a prayer and know that you are not alone.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
It is an old story I never tire of hearing and it reminds me that as I face these days ahead I may do so without fear and with great joy. It is your story too.