By Gary E. Mueller
Bishop of the Arkansas Annual Conference
The contrast is striking.
On the one hand, there is the glitter of Christmas, which often goes up early in November (sometimes even in October!) and starts coming down the day after Christmas because people are ready to move on. Sadly, however, no amount of glitter can change what’s beneath it: beautifully decorated houses filled with addictions, dysfunctional families, life-threatening illnesses, depression, meaningless jobs, hopelessness and mean-spirited character.
On the other hand, there is the birth of a child to an unmarried woman almost unnoticed in a dirty stable far away from her family. The stable is filled with the mess and muck of animals, yet glows with divine love. The child’s birth does not try to cover up real life, but rather fundamentally transforms it. This event is not just another holiday party, but the incarnation of the Christ child who has come to save us with the gift of abundant and eternal life.
We are inextricably tied to both the Christmas of glitter and incarnation. Yet all too often, the Christmas glitter sparkles so brightly that it’s hard to see into the stable and all it means. The point is not to get rid of all the things that make Christmas wonderful, although I am annually tempted to do just that when we have to take down, pack up and store it all. Rather, it is to look beneath the glitter of Christmas and see the most beautiful sight in the world: God who is so passionately in love with us that he became one of us to give us what we have to have, but can never get on our own.
The words of Luke 2 speak this reality so simply and profoundly,
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Yes, the contrast is striking. The Christmas glitter always fades, falls off and blows away. The Incarnation is eternal, beautiful and our ultimate hope.