Christmas Dread: Some Assembly Required!

There are so many things to look forward to, come Christmas! What are some of your favorites? (Congregation responds) But, if we're honest, we all dread certain things about Christmas too. Anybody wanna share? (Congregation responds) Let me share a Christmas dread, especially for us fellows. Those awful, frequent words, "Some assembly required." 'Chills the body and the soul, like no Christmas Eve snowstorm ever could. Oh, I tell you, this is a dread-full thing of Biblical proportions, and with a Christmas precedent, right from the start. Here's the thing. Joseph had exactly the same feelings when he first began to get ready for Christmas. See, he too had some assembly required. And far beyond midnight musing over muddled directions. Some of what troubled him still troubles us. Maybe he can help us "get it together" for Christmas.

Joseph just needed to get it together with God. Us too! Some assembly required. First, there was this thing about what he wanted, compared to what God wanted. He dreaded that difference. (We do too). We're so used to telling Christmas through Mary's eyes. All so… miraculous! Joseph's story's more like ours, I think. He's open to God. 'Has prayed for wonders from healing to happiness over and over, just like us. But down deep, he's never really expected them. Besides, he appears a well-established fellow. With a mind of his own. Dreams to pursue. And his whole world seems to revolve around the love of his life, Mary. Christmas kind of invades him. All his dreams will now be consumed by heaven's! What makes sense-in-the-world will need to be assembled in a whole new way. Joseph's dream has been just to make-ends-meet. (Sound familiar?) Now he's asked to help make heaven and earth meet! (Are we really any less called, come Christmas?) His dream has been to have Mary for his own. Now he's asked to share her with everyone for all time. (What are we asked to share we'd rather not, come Christmas?) He's always wanted a son. Now he's asked to be an adoptive dad in God's behalf. (Does Christmas tell you God wants more than you planned?) Maybe just getting the shopping done, decorations out, cookies baked, stuff wrapped, and making the relative rounds is not quite the big deal we thought. Maybe we can learn from Joseph there's more to it. Like, getting it together with God. What we want, overcome by what God wants. Christmas is an S.A.R. time.

Next for Joseph, there were family issues to deal with. What would they make of Mary and her condition? Don't you know holiday meals would never be the same again?) We have family issues too. Granted, Jesus' coming doesn't require most of us to ask our families to believe what Joseph had to ask of his. But many of us have Christmas dreads for the dinner table too. Getting along with each other. The annoying cousin. The brother or father with all those "opinions", the one who never helps serve or clean up. The ones who stir deep resentments or deeper hurts. The ones whose places we save. They are gone now. And we miss them with an urgent tenderness. Why, our families mirror the human family…that cannot manage peace on earth and good will to others, even on the birthday of the Prince of Peace. The good news is, like Joseph, we have an angel's assurance that this whole Christmas thing is conceived of the Holy Spirit. God is with us as never before. And this day, this event, this Christmas offers a new hope and a very real possibility that we can start over. And better. And in a way that brings what is holy to overcome what is expected. After all, the Spirit has conceived what we could not imagine. Christmas is born… to give us and ours a second birth. And all God's family here on earth.

So why dread Christmas? 'Cause there's the nagging thought that Christmas might just change us. We may never be the same again! Joseph could relate. Look how Christmas changed things for him! Now there's no denying there's no-such-thing as living alone. Imagine, the Son of God… living at your house. Over breakfast! When you've had a lousy day at work. When you're ready to have it out with your spouse over debts. When you're ready to do something you know would not please heaven. You're responsible for making Jesus presentable to the world. (Once he's in your life, truly born to you, why, there's just no getting away from him!) Imagine that! Well… actually, you don't really need to. See, all these things true for Joseph… are true for us too. Every one. That's what Christmas does. It reminds us, assures us, challenges us to live with Jesus because now, Jesus lives with us. Son of God, eternally begotten, God from God, Light from Light… one with the Father… for our salvation down from heaven, truly human, crucified one day for us, buried, on the third day raised according to Scripture, ascended, seated again with the Father, set to judge, and to offer a Kingdom without end. How could we ever be the same again?

Take heart today. It turned out Christmas gave Joseph just the life God had been making ready for him. 'Ready since long before heaven's angels first stirred with the news of the Savior. 'Long before they heard some assembly would be required. Take heart. Christmas gives us the life God has prepared for us, too. So put away your dreads this Christmas. This thing that is coming is a thing of the Lord's own doing. And it will be marvelous in our eyes and the wonder of our lives! Now and forever. Amen.

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