Maine is experiencing one of its warmest Decembers ever, perhaps the warmest ever. When we gather for our annual Old South Christmas Eve service at 7:00, the temperature will be hovering around 50. For this part of the world at this time of year, that’s warm, practically balmy.
Last year’s Christmas was also on the warmer side as well, but we had had a snowy (very snowy) Thanksgiving. And, then after Christmas, “snowmagaddon” came upon us and we completely forgot about the warmer than usual Christmas.
This year’s extended fall, with warmer temperatures, has made the Christmas season in Central Maine certainly feel less “Christmasy.” There’s hardly been a flake of snow and the grass has a strange green quality to it, not like it’s normal December brown (when it’s not covered with the white stuff).
It has occurred to me, though, that this is a great way to encounter Christmas—a little, if not a lot, off-kilter. Christmas should be surprising. It should be strange, unusual.
Christmas really should never “feel” like Christmas.
Even for those of us who’ve never missed a Christmas Eve service, we ought to refrain from allowing Christmas to become simply a sentimental, nostalgic trip to a seemingly well-known, well-worn story—“In those days . . . .”
In this season when we hear the familiar words of the old story of God coming to be in our midst, to share in our common lot, to live among us, to be one of us, we should open our hearts and our minds for the continuing surprising presence of our Creator. To peer into the manger once again, should not just fill us with warmth of memory. It should capture the heart, the mind, the spirit, and the imagination.
The old, familiar story is a new story as well.
We have an opportunity to experience Christmas in a new way, not simply because we can dress a little lighter and can leave behind those heavy winter boots. Christmas should always be new, always starting, always full of wonder, and always just beyond the capacity to understand. Just what does it mean to worship this One, Messiah, Savior, born of a young mother, perhaps in a stable surrounded by animals, with visitors that ranged from poor shepherds to the worldly and wise?
And, where do we fit into this story, this ever-unfolding story of God’s presence among God’s people?