Reflecting on the Great Exchange: Christmastide [27DEC2013]
Readings: Psalm 97, 98 ◊ 1 Isaiah 12:1-6 ◊ Rev. 1:1-8 ◊ John 7:37-52 ◊
Reading: The Divine Hours—Prayers for Autumn, and Wintertime
Reconciliation is here…Restoration beckons us to come.
The past couple days I have remained in a state of contemplative wonder; considering still the miracle of deity and flesh converging for the purpose of redeeming light from dark and life from death. For many people, Christmas is over…there is still the novelty and newness of gifts given and received, but the wonder of the Great Exchange has been forgotten; swallowed in the glitter, flash, and furious flurry of commercialism and consumerism. Such is life in the 21st Century. In the great traditions of the church, however, Christmas is not over…the celebration has only just begun.
“Christmas is not merely a day like every other day. It is a day made holy and special by a sacred mystery. It is not merely another day in the weary round of time. Today, eternity enters into time and time, sanctified, is caught up into Eternity.” —Thomas Merton
Christmastide: A Season of Feasts…celebrating the joining of Heaven and Earth
The wonderful nativity story from the gospel of Luke that is so romanticized by our culture has become our poster child of the Christmas season. We gather together, read the story, force a tear, stifle a yawn, and then with alarming speed we rush through the day of Christmas and begin our race towards the New Year holiday parties. And the birth of our Savior is all but forgotten; lost in the midst fanfare-ous clutter and media mayhem.
The waiting is over, the promised Savior is here…The waiting is over, the Holy One is born…The waiting is over, the Light of the World dawns. If Advent is waiting, Christmas is a season of wonder.
As I have considered this magnificent event, God coming to earth in the flesh of man (Luke 2; Philippians 2), I have noted some parallels…similarities to other stories I have not previously considered. Mary gives birth…delivers the Deliverer, Jesus, with great and joyful exhaustion. I have been present through the births of three of my own children. It is an incredible and “full-body” experience—painful, messy, and very emotional. Giving thought to these experiences, my imagination is stirred to reflect upon the “rebirth” process. After all, this is what the divine birth is the precedent for. I think the process of rebirth is very similar to the original birth…perhaps just as much fraught with pain, mess, and emotion…sometimes exhausting and sometimes exhilaratingly joyful too. Birth and rebirth do not start and stop with a single event; both are beginnings. I wonder why so many of us treat the birth of Jesus as a single event during the Christmas season. I wonder why so many of us (professing Christians) treat our “rebirth” as a single event during the course of our lives. Both events are beginnings; the starts of something so incredible and so incomprehensible that it is hard to put into words. Laurence Stookey does an admirable job of describing the indescribable, the Great Exchange; he writes the following:
Christmas is the enfleshment of God, the humiliation of the Most High and divine participation in all that is painful, ugly, frustrating, and limited. Divinity takes on humanity, to restore the image of God implanted at creation but sullied by sin. Here is the great exchange Christmas ponders, that God became like us that we might become like God. God accepted death that the world might accept life. The Creator assumed temporality to redeem creation from futility. -Laurence Stookey
My, oh my… How then can we ignore this great exchange, this great salvation? (Hebrews 2:2-4)
I have decided to take on the suggestion from one of the books I am reading during this immersion into the liturgical year; while society and culture moves on to the next thing, I will treat this Christmastide season (these twelve days of Christmas) different. I will linger and reflect on the Season of Feasts; for indeed, Heaven has kissed Earth and reconciliation is here. Restoration beckons us to come.
”Don’t be afraid…I bring you Good News that will bring Great Joy to all people. The Savior—Yes the Messiah, the Lord has been born today.” Luke 2:10-11
“Then I witnessed in Heaven an event of great significance… It has come at last—salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ.” Revelation 12
The LORD is King! Let the earth rejoice! For you, O LORD, are supreme over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked. Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy! The LORD holds his people in his hand for all to see—a splendid crown in the hand of God. Yes, Our God rejoices over his people just as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. Therefore, let us give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. I have prayed to the LORD and the LORD has answered me and set me free. The LORD is for me and for us and for his people; I will have no fear. Yes, the LORD is for his people; He will help us. He is our God and we will exalt him! Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (prayer adapted from Psalms 97, 98, Isaiah 62, and Psalm 118)