December 25, 2009

I bring you good tidings...really.

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath.

—John 3:31-36

That's neither holly nor jolly, is it? Yet this is today's gospel reading from the Presbyterian Church USA's daily lectionary.

Many people are taking today as a vacation day. But is is a holy day? Are we stopping to consider what it meant for God to put on flesh and dwell with us? Are we accepting his testimony? Or are we performing some cultural norms out of habit, or because everyone else does?

I skipped decorating this year. Not so much as a wreath on the door. And for half a minute, I worried that my neighbors might think I'm not a Christian because there's nothing on the outside of my house to show it.

Meanwhile, around the corner, our neighbors have a yard full of inflatable decorations and more lights than Vegas. I would live in fear of such an electric bill.

What, I ask you, does an electrically lighted inflated Santa have to do with the immanence of God?

By contrast, I attended my first Christmas Eve worship service at my new church last night. I had the pleasure of sitting in front of the most tone-deaf person I have ever heard. I soon got over the little thrill of not being the worst singer in the room for once. As the saint behind me offered up "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" with all the gusto she could muster, I thought of this Psalm, which also happens to be on the lectionary for today:
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.…
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.
Sing praises to the King of Kings. Accept His testimony. It's not holly. It's not jolly. It's holy.

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