The back end of Christmas can fall with a thud. The anticipation has built for weeks, especially if you’re a kid, and how can any single day bear that weight? Yes, the presents can give you a thrill, and the time with family may truly be precious. But even the best Christmas ends, and then we’re cleaning the dirty dishes and fixing the toys that have already broken, and piling up all the garbage into overstuffed containers.
For some, Christmas isn’t even joyful to begin with. It can be a harsh reminder of a loved one who isn’t there because of death or estrangement, or it can confront you with the fact that you can’t give or receive the nice gift, that you weren’t blessed with the family you have in your mind.
And then in the midst of Christmas hangover, we gear up for New Year’s Resolutions, which are often promises instantly broken, or expressions of our desperate desire to be different than we have been. As Americans, it’s hard for us to shake our instinctual belief that we can make ourselves into the best versions of us if we just have enough time and willpower.
In the face of all of this, it is so helpful to remember that Advent is the season of anticipating a birth, and a birth is never just about one day. We rejoice in birth because it’s a beginning, it’s the promise or the hope of years to come. It bursts with potential. After all, it’s not as if Jesus came only as a baby.
In Galatians 4:4-5, Paul writes “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
I love this verse about the birth of Jesus, because it is alive with the purpose of it.
First of all, Paul teaches that it came at just the right time. When his prophets had been silent, when his people had been conquered, and way before the invention of YouTube to broadcast it all, God said Yes, this is it. It’s comforting to know that he loves to work in situations that to our eyes look questionable.
Second, Paul centers us on the reality of Jesus’s personhood. Yes, he was without sin, but he decided to place himself under the law he wrote. He decided to take on the limitations of flesh that he created. In love, he became one of us, from diapers to puberty to brutal death, all while demonstrating his deep care for us miserable sinners. He wasn’t just born, he was a man who really lived—and in him, we can too.
This is what I need in this sluggish, dark cold week between holidays. I don’t need to dig down deep and make myself new. I don’t need more stuff. I need to breathe in and welcome my redemption, to stop and speak with my Father who loves me. I need to remind myself of the goal of Christ’s life, and that he achieved it to the full.
For 2018, I don’t have any grand promises to make myself about me, but I do have a grand good news to share, as do you. May the Holy Spirit give us courage and opportunity to do so.