The bells of Christmas chime once more;
The heav’nly guest is at the door.
He comes to earthly dwellings still
With new year gifts of peace, good will.
Come Jesus, glorious heav’nly guest,
And keep your Christmas in our breast;
Then David’s harpstrings, hushed so long,
Shall swell our jubilee of song.
-ELW 298, The Bells of Christmas, vv1, 6
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Jesus has come again, and we have been given a new slate!
Even after more than two thousand years of Christmases, the promise is the same- Jesus is born in flesh and blood. God has entered into our reality in a new way! Christ has come, and the world will never be the same!
Throughout the story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection, we are treated to an experience of God that is beyond what we expect. In the coming of God into the world, we expect power, might, and upheaval. Instead, we get a seemingly ordinary baby born to a pretty normal-for-the-time family. In Jesus’ ministry, we expect an incarnate God filled with desire for power and worship. Opposingly, we read stories of a rather meek man who points to God in heaven as his power source rather than his own goodness. In his death narrative, we expect Jesus to be delivered from the pain and difficulty of life. But instead we hear a story of a vulnerable man who suffers the same way we as humans do. Even in his resurrection, we are surprised. Dead people are supposed to stay dead!
This child, the heavenly guest alluded to in the hymn above, not only comes to dwell with us, but comes to change everything we think we know about God, ourselves, and our relationships with God and others. Jesus came that we might experience life anew, freely living in the promises of God. After hearing the story again, we change and grow to understand what God is doing in our lives. God lives within us and compels us to become a new being in Christ.
Put in this light, it seems to me that the closeness of Christmas and New Year is no mistake. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, in hopes that we will change or shift a certain behavior in our life. Jesus’ birth is like the ultimate New Year’s resolution. Christmas is a promise from God to humanity that our relationship will take on new dimensions. The world will never be the same!
As you celebrate Christmas and the New Year, remember: what we are celebrating is more than just a birth, more than just a new beginning. We are celebrating a new promise from God that everything from this point on will be different. The promise is fulfilled, is being fulfilled, and will be fulfilled. Let’s celebrate!
Intern Pastor Seth