Wishing all of you much joy this Christmas Day! By celebrating Jesus’s birth today, we name him as our Lord and Savior, worthy of our worship.
Worship has been much on my mind recently, not necessarily the liturgy or the music or whether to be online or in person for Christmas services (well, those, too…), but mostly I’ve been pondering the innate human need to worship, and its various manifestations. As I drove through my neighborhood during Advent, for example, I imagined all the Christmas lights not only lighting up this dark time of year, but meeting a deeper need, even – perhaps especially – among the unchurched. And when I look at pictures of how my older son’s family festooned their house and filled their yard with lights this year, their bright display seems an offering not just to the season, but to the sacred. (Note: this photo isn’t my son’s house…)
Neither of my sons’ families attends church, and while I might wish that they did, I’m aware that they are spiritually grounded in ways I’m sure God understands. After all, for millennia, humans were clearly aware of something beyond themselves, something worthy of worship and wonder, although what they routinely worshiped was the creation: fire (think Christmas lights), animals (consider my younger son’s family that includes four cats, three rabbits, three tarantulas, three snakes, two chinchillas, and a dog), the wind, the sun and the moon and the seasons – creation rather than the Creator.
I recently learned that the oldest human structure so far discovered goes back to just after the ice age, when wooly mammoths still wandered the earth: it’s a place of worship where ancient people carved figures of animals and sacred symbols into stone pillars.
It wasn’t until 9,000 years after that first temple was begun that God called Abraham and Sarah out of Haran, and it was here that the human longing for worship found its true home in God. But we still didn’t get the message. “Again and again you called us into covenant with you… [Y]ou loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior.”
And that brings us to today: Christmas! Even family members who don’t attend church, who may not even identify as Christian, are drawn to the image of this Holy Child, born in poverty but worshiped by angels, shepherds, and kings. My young granddaughters still argue over who gets to put Mary and Jesus into the different creches we have, knowing that they are the heart of the story, that there is something special and sacred going on.
So however you or your neighbors or your family members recognize and celebrate this day, know that God smiles on it all. After all, God so loved the world – not just the church, mind you, but the world – that God sent his beloved Son to live among us, and to love us.