It is Christmas Eve. Or is it Christmas Day? For the Christian, a day begins at midnight. For the Jew, a day begins at sundown. For the Muslim, well, I’ve seen you guys debate back and forth on whether the day begins at sunrise or sunset so I can’t rightly say. But let us for imagination’s sake assume Jesus was actually born on Christmas. Well, unless the angels first wanted to give the baby a few hours alone with his parents, we know he was born in the evening. Would that be the evening of the 24’th of the evening of the 25’th? Since Joseph and Mary and Jesus were all Jewish, does it mean Christmas starts today at sundown? Since this is in reality just a day the early church picked so we can all celebrate at the same time, does it really matter?
When does Christmas start for you? Tonight? Tomorrow morning? For my immediate family Christmas always started Christmas Eve. As I’ve shared before, we would do the Christmas dinner, and then church, see the lights, and then return home to hear the story and finally open up all our presents. Christmas Day was always celebrated with the extended family and that was great but for us, the real Christmas celebration happened on Christmas Eve. What about you? Excited yet? Already partying? Have you already gone back too many times for another serving of Uncle Tom’s Eggnog? Has the family already been gathered? Will you gather?
The anticipation… I love it. Growing up, as soon as the tree was up and decorated the presents underneath would start to accumulate. I would dig around down there for the ones with my name on it and then begin to play Sherlock. What can it be? This one is too large to be a book. It is too heavy to be clothes. A board game perhaps? Maybe a little shaking could clear things up. No? Then if its a game there are no dice inside. Hmmm. Sometimes I think this was almost as fun as actually playing with (or wearing or reading) the presents once they have been opened. You know there is a gift about to be unwrapped. You know it is for you. What is it?
Oh, the anticipation. I wonder how much of this Mary felt as her belly grew and the time grew short. Mary had been told that she was carrying the Son of the Most High God who will rule over an everlasting kingdom. But what exactly does that look like? How will it come to be? Joseph had been told that Mary was to give birth to Emmanuel… God with us. How exactly would God in flesh now be appearing? Uncle Zach and Aunt Lizzy knew that Mary was about to give birth to the Messiah. How soon would they get to see him? When that first Christmas started, how long did it take for them to get the news?
Are you excited yet? Are you eager? Jesus came to bring joy to the world. Jesus brought joy to the world. For me that joy first came when I was about four years old. My earliest memory is of me sitting alone in the living room in our little house in Greece New York. I remember thinking, “I wonder if Jesus knew that He was God when he was a little boy? Did He always know or was it something he figured out? Could I be God?” In a simple child’s way I pondered this. “No. I can’t be God because God is perfect and I’m not. That’s why I need Jesus.” This earliest of memories was probably came somewhere around Christmas because another early memory was having a snowball fight in the church driveway right next to our house. I was really angry because I could never throw my snowballs far enough to hit anyone. I don’t have a memory of the moment but I am told that around this same time I was in a Sunday School class being taught by Mrs Wojak when I first gave my heart to Christ. That was the first and greatest true gift I have ever given. It was only possible because Christ first gave the greatest gift of all to me.
Thirty-five, maybe thirty-six years ago. That was when Christmas started for me. When did your Christmas start? When will your Christmas start?