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What good is Christmas?

By CINDY HOWARD

Our celebrations of Christmas are over. The trees are down. The ornaments and decorations are put away. It is only mid-January, and we already seem to have moved on.

But as I look in the rearview mirror at this past Christmas celebration, I continue to think about a meditation from the Society of St. John the Evangelist that I read one morning shortly before Christmas Day. It grabbed my attention then, and it has remained in my thoughts since I read it first. The meditation began with a question. “What good is it that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago…?”

And then, the question in the meditation concluded by answering its own query. “What good is it that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago if he is not also born in me?”

You see Jesus’ birth in that stable so long ago is not really of any good or any use at all, if he is not born in us. If we do not allow Jesus, what he taught and how he lived, to become more and more part of who we are and if we do allow ourselves to be transformed to be more like him.

Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem more than 200 years ago is of no use unless we make our celebration of Christmas more than a day for big family meals and extravagant gift-giving. The true celebration of Christmas must, to paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, be kept all the year. It must enable us to become more loving, more forgiving, more generous, more filled with the grace and peace that only the birth of Christ can bring. It must enable us to become the more and more the incarnation that Jesus was, bearers of God’s love on earth.

What good is it that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago?

Let me answer that question in the words of Howard Thurman, an American theologian of the last century. Here is the difference that birth can make if Christ is born in us –

 

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

 

The Rev. Dr. Cindy Howard is rector of Sta. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Andalusia.