There is something about the extravagance of Christmas, with which many of us have a love/hate relationship, that I love.
I do hate the commercialization of this holy, holy hour. I do hate my own busy-ness when it threatens to turn me into a worse version of myself than I am most of the rest of the year.
I hate when I spend or think I should spend more money than has been set aside for our celebration …
But, I love that we love to spend and do and decorate and sing and sparkle and give and visit and feast and laugh and rejoice and gather and restore and renew and all the other precious things that seem heightened, along with the stress, at Christmastime.
It’s as if Christendom is on watch, and really not just for the presents. That’s such a small part of it all. It’s the watching that we love, I think. The anticipation. That’s the secret joy of Advent.
I was talking with a friend just today who may have to spend Christmas alone. She isn’t lamenting the gifts she won’t get on the day, it’s the fun and the friendship and the festivity. All of those wonderful parts of the holidays are wrapped up in the extravagance of Christmastime … hence the gift giving and the houses that look like red and green peacocks. I am taking a slightly different approach … I think Christendom DOES know the reason for the season, even if we don’t give Him half the attention He deserves any day of the year.
Christmas isn’t Mardi Gras – not even close. It isn’t the Fourth of July … it doesn’t feel like that either, despite the fireworks, food, and frolicking.
I rather think that anyone who has even once heard the Christmas story told will ever relate the spectacular aspects of this event, the lights, carols, trees, wreaths, gifts, ribbons, punch and cookies to that account, at least in small measure, unless they make a strong Ebenezer Scrooge decision against it. Christmas gives itself to extravagance, even if we could refine our traditions at times.
In all of the spectacular-ness, one extravagant individual always stands out to me. I marvel at Mary’s faith and trust and willingness, but upon the heels of her “Be it unto me,” she very soon knew she was pregnant and she knew the Child had no earthly father. Joseph’s extravagance takes my breath away. Extravagant trust, obedience, and love. Extravagant graciousness and mercy and humility. Not that Mary was without those, but Joseph’s “all in” warms my heart in a special way. In a way, Mary, knowing that she was speaking with an emissary from the throne of God, gave herself to glory. By way of a very difficult path.
No “Magnificat” comes from Joseph’s lips, at least not in Scripture. He just got up and did as he was bid.
I don’t want the Lord to find more Christmas in my heart than this kind of extravagance, Joseph’s and Mary’s kind, but here we are, after all, celebrating once again their spectacular trust and praying that it may be found in us.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit;
19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;
21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife,
25 but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)
Clifton Mill, West Virginia,
photo courtesy of moofpocket, Wikipedia