Scripture reading for today:

Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:1-20

I have something I need to confess.

I suppose that Christmas Day is as good a time as any to share my secret with the world.  

I, Elle Pyke, am a sucker for Christmas.

I know right? I’m the worst.

I seriously love Christmas. I love it all. And by all, I mean all the things.

I love the snow that comes down like confetti, the terribly cheesy Christmas songs that play on repeat, the elaborately decorated trees and even the sickly sweet fruitcakes that no one ever asks for, yet somehow everyone receives.

And celebrating Christmas as a Jesus follower? Come on! It’s the ultimate holy party. Who doesn’t love the lighting of candles? Sweet baby Jesus in a manger? All that liturgical action? You can bet your Star of Bethlehem I’m singing “Oh Holy Night” louder than is socially acceptable at a Canadian worship gathering.

Oh, but 2018, it’s been a year hasn’t it? It feels like on every corner of our country there is injustice, suffering, and places and people that need the deep love and healing of Jesus. As December crept closer on the calendar this year, I started to feel somewhat ashamed of my rather exuberant Christmas loving heart.

For those who are marginalized, displaced, suffering from economic and racial injustice, the broken, the weary, the grieving, the orphan, the refugee, the less than, the have-nots and anyone, anywhere who seems to have the boot of the empire firmly planted on their neck, this season can often serve as reminder that tidings of comfort and joy are not theirs. I’ve struggled to embrace a posture of celebration in 2018 knowing that so many others are suffering.

When I think of the Christmas story I often wonder what it would have been like to be a first century Jew, patiently waiting for the Messiah they had been promised. What stories danced in their heads as they waited in the margins? As they lived under the heavy hand of Roman occupation, knowing unspeakable and gratuitous violence, fear and hopelessness, feeling the burden of poverty and economic oppression. With heavy breath, slowly drawn in and exhaled out, did they ever wonder aloud, could today be the day of our salvation?

Will liberation ever be ours?

How long will we wait?

God, aren’t we your chosen people?

Yet, in the midst of their waiting and longing, in the corner of Caesar’s empire, a baby was born. Not in a palace but in the least and lowest and last place we’d look. A king born without crown or country. A king who would one day carry the cross and restore and redeem everyone and everything.

Joy unspeakable! Holy party time!

But in the waiting? In the expecting? In the longing? In the in-between? In the silence of the unknown? In the soul-wrenching, back-breaking, heart-heavy moments before?

Joy intangible.

In the hustle and bustle of Christmas morning, family and friends gathered around tables, in the hints of our Christmas joy, there is still an expectancy that resides. We know that something still isn’t right. A groan deep inside, that reaches through the ages and links arms with our first-century brothers and sisters who were once in waiting.

I’ve come to realize that we now own their longing. We are now the people of the waiting. We are now the people who are expecting. We are the children, standing on tiptoes, peering ahead in anticipation of the returning Christ with birthday cake still on our hands from the celebration of His birth.

We are the children, standing on tiptoes, peering ahead in anticipation of the returning Christ with birthday cake still on our hands from the celebration of His birth. Click To Tweet

It is this mysterious tension of the now and the not yet that is our home address as Christ followers, even on a day such as this. It’s the lesson I needed to learn this year, to set my Christmas-celebrating-heart free, while it simultaneously breaks and waits for the restoration yet to come.

Friends, we are the people to whom the Spirit of God says “the not yet is worth the wait” and also “the what has come is worth the party”

On this Christmas Day, I believe the invitation before us from the margins, is to live bent towards hope and peace even when all doesn’t feel calm and when all doesn’t feel bright. The invitation before us is to celebrate the beauty of a baby in a manger who will heal the world, even when everything is not healed. To bear faithful witness to liberation, restoration and redemption while being present in our relationships, neighbourhoods and cities that are yet to liberated, restored or redeemed. To continue to wait from the margins and long for the day when all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

Taste and see that the celebration and the tension, they are both good; and today, unto us, in the midst of all the injustice and suffering of the world, a baby is born.

Oh glory, glory, alleluia, Christ the Lord, how we’ve longed for you!

So may you, my fellow people of the longing, know the mysterious tension of the now and the not yet, and sense the Spirit present with you in both spaces.

May this story of a baby being born, remind you that THE story is not over and for thousands of years people of faith felt the thrill of hope, as the weary world rejoiced, knowing that something new was breaking forth.

May the birth of Christ birth in you an imagination for new and wild ways of starting things in your hearts, in your homes and in your neighbourhoods.

And may you, kick up your heels, raise your glass, and maybe even take a bite of that sickly sweet fruitcake and have yourself a Merry, yet longing, Christmas.

Thank you for reading the New Leaf Advent Reader, a collection of reflections from writers across Canada. If you missed earlier reflections, take a look at the whole collection:

photo credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia