If your house is anything like mine, there are remnants of Christmas everywhere. There's the tree with a string of lights not quite working. There's a box of wrapping paper and cardboard waiting to go out to the recycle bin. There's a not-so-tidy stack of decorations that never made it to the tree. The new gifts sitting out because they haven't found a place yet. Oh, and the kitchen, well, it's the kitchen after a flurry of baking and candy making... It's obvious that something happened here, it's just not clear what that something was.
It's just not clear what that something was. For many people, the day after Christmas is the day to put everything away, tidy things up for the new year. In the stores all the Christmas goods are on the clearance shelves and Valentine's Day products have taken the prime spots. It's hard to keep up when retail jumps from one holiday to the next without stopping in between. Church is different, though, isn't it.
The Advent wreath is fully lit as the paraments change to white. Concerts and carols fill the week. How do we keep going with Christmas while the world moves on? How do we linger at the manger, under the star long enough to find some meaning in the annual remembrance of Jesus' birth?
Isaiah, the Psalmist, Simeon, Paul all provide a clue to meaning making. They all point toward praise. Praising God in the midst of the chaos and the ordinary opens us to the truth of what happened under that star so long ago. Too many people say that they cannot praise God while refugees wander without a home, while people freeze to death for lack of shelter, while children remain hungry, while hatred runs free in our streets, and on down the list of social ills. Perhaps this is part of the reason for everything feeling overwhelming or out of control; we have forgotten how to sing God's praises every day.
No matter what is happening in the world, God is still God. God created the world. God so loves the world. God became flesh and lived among us. God reveals the way of Love. If the world is overwhelmed with hatred and poverty and fear, it is not God's doing. God is still God in the midst of the mess we have created. God was God on that first Christmas when Jesus took his first breath. God was God on that first Good Friday when Jesus took his last breath. God was God on that first Easter morning when Christ emerged from death. God is God, even now, when we live in fear, when we struggle for health and wholeness, when Pharaoh and Babylon are on the rise again, when we forget that nothing can extinguish Love. God is still God. God waits for us to recognize God's presence here and now. God is waiting for us to sing praises to God even when we don't feel like it.
There is plenty to sing about, really. God loves humanity collectively and individually, even when we don't seek out God's ways, even when our sin has lasting effects. Praising God for the goodness of creation should come naturally to our lips. Praising God for God's amazing love for humanity should be as natural as breathing. We have forgotten to step back and look beyond our own lives, beyond this moment in time, beyond the remnants of this Christmas. We have forgotten to listen to the stories of those who have gone before us. We have forgotten to come before God in awe and gratitude for the gift of life and Love. Perhaps we have forgotten how truly loved we are. If we remember, we can change the world. If we remember, we will become known for our songs of praise.
Spend some time in these days of Christmastide under the light of the star that still shines, surrounded by the remnants of the day, and remember. Remember the days of old that enable the prophets and poets to sing praises to God. Remember the beauty and wonder of creation. Remember those who have shared faith with you. But most importantly, remember that Christmas is all about Love breaking into the world in a whole new way so that we will not forget that we are God's beloved. That's what happened in that stable so long ago. That's what happened just a few days ago.
May we all become songs of praise to the One whose Love continues to reach for us, even now.
Rachael Keefe has been ordained in the United Church of Christ since 1992. She has served in parish, community, and health care settings. Currently, she is the pastor of Living Table, United Church of Christ.
You can follow her at https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com