It took Pastor and Molly quite a while to make it through all the Christmas cards they received with all the kind sentiments about their time at All Saints. Reading the cards made them feel good and just as in Molly’s Christmas letter, they know they are not done yet. It helped to extend the Christmas feeling a bit longer. And then reality sets in. Pastor ended up with a sinus infection and he affectionately claimed it was probably caused by one of his germy grandchildren. But that is kind of how it is with Christmas. We spend so much time preparing and trying to make sure everything gets done that needs to get done that we get so tired and we collapse afterwards.
When we left church after Christmas Eve services, we left with the happy feeling. God came into the world in Jesus, to be one of us. And then reality sets in. The gospel this week comes from Matthew 2 and tells of when Herod realized he was tricked by the wise man and ordered that all the children in and around Bethlehem two years old or under be killed. Why would Matthew include this? His is the only gospel to do so and it really takes the Christmas spirit away. But the story he shared was just reality. Jesus was born and then his family had to flee to Egypt and then eventually to Nazareth. The same can be said today, just because we celebrated Christmas, the reality of the world we live in is still there. Christmas comes and goes and then so does the visiting family and friends. Then the bills start rolling in. And you see that war, poverty, famine and other inequalities continue just as they always have. Why does reality have to creep back in…can’t we make Christmas last more than just one day?
In a letter from World Hunger, it cited statistics stating that the number of people living at or below the poverty level increased by 10 million people in the past year, making 50 million people in poverty. Then you hear reports of the stock market hitting historic highs. The wealth is not distributed in an equitable manner. It should not be this way but it is. It is the same thing with our building project. The original projection is the project would be completed by Thanksgiving and here is it after Christmas and there are still various projects in different levels of completion. No matter how much we want it to be different, it isn’t and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it.
Why do we bother coming to church? We participate in the celebration of Christmas, but no celebration can completely take away the pain in our heart. It can never remove the reality we live in. When we come to church we hear the gospel…the Good News…revealed to us in word and sacrament. It shows us what God means to us and what we mean to God. Evils still happens in the world, but God has a plan which we are right in the middle of. God thought so much of his creation that he became one of us. He lived and suffered in the world just as we do so he understands. And, because he understands he is able to help. It says so in the last verse of the second lesson from Hebrews, “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, his is able to help those who are being tested” (Heb 2:18)
When reality hits us, we dust ourselves off and continue to live on. He is there with us through it all. He will help us through it. We live in the promise of the Good News; to a story so amazing we can’t even begin to comprehend and that is how we can take the joy of Christmas and make it last all year long.