Rev. Dr. Billy Burch
It is Christmas Day!
It is Christmas Day! And I am thankful for it. The entirety of this season brings anticipation of this day. Evening drives in these early winter weeks provide the backdrop for the many Christmas lights which will line the houses, cover the bushes, and crawl up trees. Even the drive home after a day’s work highlights the pleasantries beheld by the eyes of young and old.
Driving along windy backroads, through developments built on former cornfields, into cul-de-sacs carved from the woods, one can’t help but glance into living rooms and dining rooms, through the plate glass windows and ornamented doorways. And what does one see? A tree— the one thing that transforms a room for thirty or so days of the year. It is the tree itself that has transforming power, almost magical, by taking an otherwise familiar, even mundane, room and turning it into a Christmas wonderland. Trees of all sizes fill corners and windows with deep green pine needles, glittering lights, tiny glass ornaments the shape of bells and spheres, candy canes still in the clear wrapper, and silver belts of garland which strive to keep the shape of the tree. And the lights sparkle and reflect and an otherwise dark corner comes to life.
But that was last night and the night before. And tonight for that matter. But now! The sun has woken from its slumber. Frost has candied the front lawn. It is Christmas Day! Did you wake to the sun peeking through your blinds? Or did you wake to eager, giggling children? Was the smell of coffee summoning you out from under your covers? Has the joy of a ‘day off’ tickled you out of sleep? Or maybe the panic of having that favorite dish baked and ready before you head off to Grandma’s tapped you on the shoulder. Be thankful for it all. It is Christmas Day!
Take notice of this one thing on this very special day: transformation. Stop! Notice the Christmas Tree before you turn the light on. Describe it. Pale, shadowy, lackluster. A dark object filling space. A colorless yet large sort of cone. Now! Flip the switch. Describe it. Light bounces off the walls. Ornaments come to life. A glow fills the room. The subtle radiant color found only this time of year appears once more. The gifts wrapped in shiny red bows and green paper with Santa’s face printed all over. The light brought joy. That is transformation.
Where there is darkness, light is needed. The Israelites were in a dark place spiritually, politically, and economically. Feeling that type of utter darkness will eventually take its toll. Everyone knows that. You know that. Once or twice, you have been there. In the midst of that reality, Isaiah speaks.
The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.
A promise was made: a great light would dawn in this dark corner of history. Like a tree that transforms a room, light will change the scenery for the people. And where light shines, darkness flees. But what could this light be that the prophet speaks so passionately about? What can truly transform? It is not a ‘what’ at all, however. It is a ‘who.’ Several verses later Isaiah makes that abundantly clear.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne
of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!
That child… He is the true light. And He would not come for another seven hundred years. But He would certainly come, as was promised by God Himself. And the time did come. Paul said, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” (Gal. 4:4)
John penned these words in the opening of his gospel account:
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
The one who is the true light,
who gives light to everyone,
was coming into the world.
So the Word became human and made his home among us.
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And we have seen his glory,
the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
What we celebrate today is the Light, who intruded into the darkness of a broken world and into the shadows of our broken lives. This light of the world, Jesus, the babe born in Bethlehem. Born in the most unobtrusive, unexpected royal entrance in which He connected eternity to earth. Peace, joy, hope, love— all the words connected to the slogans, songs, and sayings of Christmas, begin with the Christ child in the manger. Let Him light the dark corners of your life. Jesus can and Jesus will. That’s worth celebrating.
May you be blessed today along with your family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. May the goodness of God show through to us in many ways on this joyous day. May the gift of the Christ Child born to us be celebrated most of all. “For unto us a child is born; unto us a child is given.”