Does anyone else feel a bit surprised that Christmas Eve is tomorrow? As Dr. Seuss’s Grinch declares, with some dismay, “It’s practically here!” Unlike the Grinch, I love Christmas, but for me it always brings a sadness that Advent is over. This is both because I love Advent best of all the Church seasons, and because I always hope to do more, and be more, during the weeks leading up to Christmas. More cookies. More cards. More service. More hymns. More peaceful reflection and spiritual growth. Couldn’t we all use a few more weeks before Christmas?
As our young family sprinted through this season, I’ve had to let go of some expectations (sending Christmas Valentines is a good idea, right?). One practice I’ve clung to, however, is a Jesse Tree reading with my ten- and seven-year olds. The idea of the Jesse Tree, in a nutshell, is to trace God’s plan for the world through Old Testament stories up to the birth of Christ in the New Testament (made simple thanks to amazing storybooks like McCaughrean’s The Jesse Tree and Marcellino’s Jesse Tree Ornaments).
This Advent practice is illuminating. It shows me that perhaps what is truly amazing about Christmas is how very long it is, indeed. The coming of the Messiah, the birth of Christ the Savior, the incarnation of God, this was not a single moment in history. It is not the four weeks of Advent and the twelve days of Christmas. From God’s creation of humanity, through the birth of Jesus and his death and resurrection, God’s plan was always, and will remain, to walk closely with His people. From the Garden, to Mount Sinai, to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, to the cross and Emmaus, to the work of the disciples, and into this very place today--God is with us.
In the beginning was the Word. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God dwells among us still. Rejoice, not only for Christmas Day, but everyday, full of God’s presence, redemption, compassion, and peace. May you have a joyful and merry Christmas.