Are you ready for Christmas? You’ve been asking others, haven’t you, over these past few weeks. And you’ve been asked the question, too, I’m sure. It’s the social equivalent of chatting about the weather, in these latter days of December. A tip of the hat, without risking any deeper revelations.
If you actually consider the question, however, what would your answer be? Are you ready for Christmas? You’ve tried to be, to whatever extent, whether with your best effort or half-heartedly. It’s hard to avoid or ignore it, when all your circles are revolving around it for a month or more.
But, let’s face it: You’re not ready. No, you’re not. Not with all of your trying, nor with all of your checked-off to-do lists. I’m guessing that you could tell me in a heartbeat what you have and haven’t done: Maybe with pride, or maybe with regret, or maybe with irritation and resentment. In any case, you know the score, because you know that everyone else is keeping score on this.
It may be that you’re content and satisfied; or maybe not. I don’t need or want to know your score. It’s a lie, no matter what the bell curve. The truth is, that you aren’t ready for Christmas, because it simply isn’t anything for you to do or achieve or to be ready for. You can’t make it happen.
What is it, really, that you’re actually aiming at and trying to accomplish? Consider your list; go over it twice. Are you doing it all for love? For whom? And for what? What’s your plan?
The stress and the strain. The striving and struggle. The sadness, and the surliness, on the surface or deep down inside: Is that love? Or, is it self-ness that drives you and whips you forward?
If you’re trying to know God, and to be like Him — by somehow getting Christmas “done right” — you’re not going to manage anything close to that on your own. By your own wisdom, reason, and strength; by your own working and worry; by your shopping and spending, or by your saving and investing for the future; without the Savior, it all amounts to one and the same: epic failure.
You can’t manage on your own, because you live in the darkness of sin and death (inside and out). Which is to say, that you’re doing it wrong, and that you’re going to die. As simple as that. And there is nothing you can do about it; nor any way for you to fix it, or stop it, or make it any better.
Yet, ready or not, Christmas comes. It is upon us. It is here.
The Light shines in the darkness. What, then, does that mean? It is the Law, which exposes your sin, your nakedness and shame. But, more than that, it is the Gospel, the knowledge of salvation, which is the genuine knowledge of intimacy and personal experience with God, the Holy Trinity. The Father speaks to you by His Son, and the Holy Spirit opens your ears, heart, and mind to hear. The Lord Himself gives you a Sign, which is Himself in the flesh. He swears by His own Name.
Here is the bottom line: Christmas comes, because Christ Jesus comes; and He does so for you.
The incarnate God, conceived and born of St. Mary, the Blessed Virgin, is Himself the Sign that is given to you by His grace, by which He is with you in the flesh. Not simply to hang out with you or keep you company; though that companionship and friendship of Christ is no small thing, especially in the face of your loneliness and emptiness and isolation. But there is more than that. The Lord God is with you in the flesh, in order to save you, to give you His own divine Life in body and soul. That Life is the Light that drives away the darkness with the knowledge of God.
In Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, you know what God is like. You know Him. You know that He is Love, and that it is for the sake of His Love that He rescues you from every evil, delivers you from sin, death, and the devil, and draws you to Himself in Peace. You know Him, not as anger, but as mercy and compassion; as long-suffering patience, sweet forgiveness, tenderness, and care.
From the heights of heaven, into the depths of Sheol, He has come for you, to save you from the serpent’s deadly sting; to snatch you from the clutches of the grave; to pick you up out of the dust and the dirt, and to stand you upright in His presence. All of this, at the cost of His own suffering and death. For the Father has sacrificed His only-begotten Son for you, and He has raised Him up again: a standard for the nations. Look to Him, and live. This is Love. This is who God is.
Therefore, in Christ; in His Incarnation, flesh and blood; in His Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension; and, now also, in His Church, at His Altar, all is prepared — finished and complete — and everything is ready. Just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity in the very flesh and blood that He shares with you and with all the sons and daughters of Adam & Eve.
The Christ Mass is ready for you, beloved of the Lord, at midnight and tomorrow morning, and throughout the coming fortnight. You were not ready for it, but the Christ Mass is ready for you, in which there is nothing less than sheer Life and Salvation for you, and for the many, through the free and full forgiveness of your sins. The only score here is the Victory of Christ on your behalf.
And in that Light, the good news is, that you are ready for Christmas; no matter how much or how little you have tried to do, or managed to get done; or even if you’ve been a Scrooge and haven’t done a blessed thing to make this season bright. Because, again, it is not something for you to do or to give, but it is a gift that is given to you by the Word of Christ, and you receive it by His grace.
As the Son of God thus comes to you, by His Word and in His Holy Sacrament; and as He serves you in this way, and makes Himself known to you by these means, and gives Himself to you in Peace, to live and abide with you; and as you abide in Him, by grace through faith in His Gospel, you are made ready by His Holy Spirit to live and to love in His Name:
To live by His grace, and so to love as He loves you: To love Him who is your Life and Light and Salvation, and to love one another in Him. That may not mean lots of expensive gifts. But do love each other well, in sincerity and truth, by caring for one another in the Peace and Joy of Christ.
Don’t worry, and do not be afraid. He is ready, willing, and able to save you; and He is here to help and serve you. Live and love in Him, in whom you are so blessed, unto His Life everlasting.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.