This month we will all hear stories of the coming of the baby who changed the world. The prophet’s words “For a child has been born for us” (Isa. 9:6a) are seared into the Christmas memories of the faithful, rising up from the depths of our being and, despite their familiarity, never losing their power to command attention. The hope, the longing, the trust, and the proof of God’s love continue to endure.
Just think for a moment about what you faced this past year. What joys and sorrows came your way? What disappointments and successes did you experience? What did you lose this year, and what did you gain? No matter how you respond to these questions, the Christmas story is for you. Because every baby that comes into our lives also comes as a chance to begin again - especially the baby in our sacred text.
The Christ child is your chance and my chance to believe again in the future. It is our chance to believe in our future together as the people of this planet earth. But in order to take advantage of this wonderful story, we will have to do something. We will have to put down whatever else we are carrying in our arms in order to receive the Christ child. Too often, we carry things that need to be laid down - old grudges and wounds, regret and guilt, anger and fear. But we cannot carry those things and the Christ child, too.
What burden taxes your spirit and uses your energy? What baggage have you hauled around with you for way too long? Whatever it is, use this season to lay it down and let it go. Because when you’ve put it down you will find your arms will be free, free to pick up the Son of God, free to let him come close to you, free to let him surprise you with hope and strength, forgiveness and healing, trust and joy.
The Christmas story endures. At its center is a baby, a baby in whom all the potential for new beginnings has been fully realized for our sake. And for that baby, let’s set aside old quarrels, let’s let our hearts be strangely warmed, and let’s explore the possibility of faith. This baby is our chance to begin again.
Let us share this Christmas prayer:
We thank you, our great and loving God, for the gift of yourself in your Son Jesus.
Let our Christmas celebration instill more deeply your message of love and reconciliation into our hearts.
What a glorious gift you have given.
Coming to a people who misunderstood your true self, you gave hope and light to overcome their darkness of spirit.
May we not view this story as a tale of the past, but open our hearts that the Christ child might be born in us this very night.
In our celebrations, we pray for those who have circumstances depriving them of Christmas joy; the hungry who must think constantly of finding food for the body, the unemployed who are denied the opportunity to give in this season of giving, the lonely who sense their aloneness more in this season than at any other time, and the grieving who feel the depth of loss as they remember past Christmases shared with others.
As we sing the familiar carols, open our minds to hear again your message of love. Hear our songs of celebration for the gift of your light to the world and the gift of your love to us.
Christmas is only the beginning of the celebration of your love for us, O God, so infuse us with your love that it may radiate from each of us. Help us to show our love to one another through a caring smile, a good deed, a hand to hold, a warm embrace. In these ways, the love we celebrate this season may be with us throughout the year. Hear our prayers in the name of Jesus the Christ, the Holy Child of Bethlehem.