I heard someone the other day say that they were not living in Christmas, they were in Lent. I heard of a congregation that even changed the lessons and liturgy to reflect the Lenten aspect that they believed they were living. “Can’t celebrate Christmas, not now, even if the calendar says it is the second Sunday of Christmas.” A tragedy had occurred, people were in shock, grief, anger, and so the belief was that the church needed to acknowledge that reality by being in Lent, not Christmas.
I will admit that the tragedy occurred in a community other than mine, and I am not part of that congregation. I cannot claim to know how they feel or what is going through their minds. What I do know is this – it was in the midst tragedy that Jesus came to us. It is in the midst of shock, grief and anger that the Incarnation happens.
Jesus did not come to some pristine world where the snow falls only on the hillside never the roads and nobody is ever hurt. Jesus did not come to a world that was all one happy, friendly, peace-loving place. This is the not story of our Gospels. Instead Jesus came to a place of military occupation and dictatorship and brutal suppression of people. Jesus came to a place of violence and war and poverty and oppression. Jesus came to a place where tragedy stuck, where children died, where people were killed. This is the Christmas story, this is the reality of the Incarnation, that God came to this world. This world, where we do experience tragedy and live in the midst of shock and grief and anger, this world is where we can celebrate Christmas.
I cannot speak for that other priest, that other congregation, but I hope that when tragedy strikes my community I will be willing to say that Christ has still come, that Christmas is still here. Where blood flows and hurt is real and death happens – Christmas is still here. It might not sell many Christmas cards, but it is the reality of the Incarnation, the reality of God who loves us so much that God comes into the real world, not a pretend one.
Hold tight to that Christmas, for it is the one that truly matters.