In my first column after a bit of a hiatus (moving, switching jobs, etc), I write about spending my first Christmas in Florida and how what never changes is the timelessness of the Incarnation.
Dreaming of a White Christmas?
This being my very first Christmas in Florida, after serving a church in New England for the past14 years, I have a few initial impressions. The first being that I can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that it’s Christmastime. Taking the dogs for a leisurely morning walk on the beach in the days leading up to the 25th has dashed all my dreaming of a white Christmas. I couldn’t see my breath, my fingers and toes weren’t numb, I didn’t race home to build a fire in the fireplace, and there was certainly no backbreaking snow to shovel.
And then there were the beautiful evergreen wreaths we bought for the front door of the rectory. They lasted a day or two before they were blasted by the sun and turned brown. But we’re quick learners, and they have since been replaced by artificial ones.
Finally, certain Christmas carols and hymns land a bit differently down here. In the Bleak Midwinter? Not so much. Frosty the Snowman? Puddle of water.
By the way, I’m not complaining. In fact, I am all in. I’ll probably be stringing up lights on palm trees next year.
But whether you’re trudging through slush or walking barefoot in the sand, what doesn’t change at Christmas is the timelessness of God’s love for humanity. God entering the world in human form transcends time and space, geography and weather.
And despite the nostalgia for a white Christmas with sleigh bells ringing and walking in a winter wonderland, it didn’t actually snow on that first Christmas Day. How do I know? I’m no meteorologist, but Jesus was born in the Middle East. So the odds of a blast of nordic air smacking the shepherds and angels gathered around the manger the night of Jesus’ birth were about zero.
Of course that doesn’t matter — it doesn’t change anything. Christmas isn’t about some bygone five-day forecast. It’s not dependent upon ideal weather conditions or snow-making machines. It’s about the hope of the world being born in less-than-ideal circumstances. It’s about joy entering our lives amid the mud and muck of a stable rather than a palace birthing room. It’s about a light shining in the darkness, and the darkness being unable to overcome it. It’s about remembering and reaching out to the least, the lost, and the lonely this season.
Wherever you are, whatever your faith tradition, whatever the weather, I hope you’ll open your heart to the Christmas story this year. When we receive it in a way that cuts through the sentimentality of the season, it can’t help but be a vehicle of hope and transformation. And let’s be honest — we could all use a dose of that these days.
If you are seeking a church home or simply want to celebrate the miracle of our Savior’s birth this Christmas, please know that there is always a place for you at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. But wherever you choose to worship, may God bless you in the year ahead and may you have a very merry, if not particularly snow-filled, Christmas.