After the past winter engulfed us, you might not be missing the snow, ice and cold. Spring came late, and then with all the rain and melting snow, so did summer. It’s understandable if you’re feeling that, now that we’re into the golden days of early summer, THIS is in fact the most wonderful time of the year.
You may be aware that we typically keep the sanctuary paraments (the cloth elements that drape the pulpit and Communion table) in sync with the colors of the church calendar, which features the main seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and “ordinary time,” along with special days like Pentecost and All Saints Day. I recently updated the calendar that Rob Anderson and others use as a guide to keep us on track each week (thanks, Rob!), and that calendar ran right through Christmas of 2019. As I sent the print-out Rob’s way, I found myself thinking, “Christmas is coming! Just six more months!”
While we might cringe at the idea of another WINTER coming, what about Christmas? I got to wondering whether we (especially as residents of a northern climate) end up linking the holiday so closely with snow, frost and hot cocoa that we forget about the gift and arrival (the “advent”) of Jesus when the mercury rises and the grass turns green. Is it possible that we can dream only of a white Christmas?
If you’ve spent much time at Redeemer, you know that we talk a lot about Jesus—the grown-up Jesus. We revere him as Lord and Savior, praise and follow him as our Shepherd, and seek to learn from him as our teacher, master and model for life. We dig deep into the gospels that contain his miracles, his parables and the accounts of his interactions with his disciples and those around them. We listen to Paul and other New Testament writers as they instruct us in theology and practice, all centered on lives as disciples of Jesus. And it’s right that we do so. As Simon Peter once told Jesus, “Lord, to whom [else] shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
But I think it’s important for us to remember the coming of Jesus—the gift of God as a baby in a manger—between Decembers. We need to remember that the Lord and Messiah we’ve chosen to follow didn’t appear out of nowhere, but had a backstory, an origin story that goes ALL the way back to the beginning and that saw him take on flesh in the humblest of ways. We follow a carpenter and rabbi, but we also worship a carpenter’s child.
All of this reminds us, even in the heat, long days and occasional languor of summer, that we’re called to be people of wonder, just like those shepherds and kings of the Christmas story. We’re invited to be people of obedience and humble reflection, like Mary. We’re inspired to be people of blessing and anticipation, like Elizabeth, and people of growing faith and increasing praise, like Zechariah. We are reminded to be people of faithful response and loving care, like Joseph. And we’re called to remember the fulfilled promise of Immanuel: that because of that baby in a manger, God himself is with us … even in July.