I am not one of them. Mind you, I am neither Grinch nor Scrooge. Christmas just never spoke to me as a memorable day.
In my theology, of course, it is a very important day. Especially for those orthodox Christians who celebrate this day as the incarnation of the Messiah. Offering hope for a lost world.
In that sense, it is an incredibly important day.
When I am on my own, I always do three things on Christmas Eve.
First, I celebrate God's greatest gift to mankind by attending a Christmas Eve service. I did that last evening with a sizable turnout of our small expatriate community.
Second, I read the Christmas story out loud. Not Charles Dickens's version. Nor Jean Shepherd's movie script. The original. Usually, from Luke.
Around this time, Emperor Augustus issued an order for a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This registration, the first of its kind, took place when Quirinius was governing in Syria. Everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. So Yosef , because he was a descendant of David, went up from the town of Natzeret in the Galil to the town of David, called Beit-Lechem, in Y’hudah, to be registered, with Miryam, to whom he was engaged, and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth; and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in cloth and laid him down in a feeding trough, because there was no space for them in the living-quarters.I then move on to the third tradition.
In the countryside nearby were some shepherds spending the night in the fields, guarding their flocks, when an angel of ADONAI appeared to them, and the Sh’khinah of ADONAI shone around them. They were terrified; but the angel said to them, “Don't be afraid, because I am here announcing to you Good News that will bring great joy to all the people. This very day, in the town of David, there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know: you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly, along with the angel was a vast army from heaven praising God:
“In the highest heaven, glory to God!No sooner had the angels left them and gone back into heaven than the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go over to Beit-Lechem and see this thing that has happened, that ADONAI has told us about.” Hurrying off, they came and found Miryam and Yosef , and the baby lying in the feeding trough. Upon seeing this, they made known what they had been told about this child; and all who heard were amazed by what the shepherds said to them. Miryam treasured all these things and kept mulling them over in her heart. Meanwhile, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen; it had been just as they had been told.
And on earth, peace among people of good will!”
Some of you may think the third leg of my Christmas Eve is a bit odd. I watch Life of Brian. That's right. The Monty Python movie that gets some people's briefs in a bunch.
It is one of the best faith films I have ever seen. If you think you know exactly the correct ritual to make you Friends of The Big Guy, you might want to watch the movie with a fresh eye. And get a good laugh at social manners along the way.
I often think that the writers knew their Old Testament prophets quite well. I can hear Hosea's warning in the film:
I'm after love that lasts, not more religion.So, having kept my traditions, let me indulge in one last rite:
I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.
I wish all of you a memorable Christmas. And a new year filled with love for God and your neighbors.