The Light of Christmas – The Rev. Michelle Meech
January 01, 2023
This time of year, in this space after Christmas, I see jokes on the internet about when it’s a proper time to take down the Christmas tree. And, of course, it has to do with how you celebrate the season of Christmas.
If you’re someone who begins celebrating at Thanksgiving or at the beginning of December, you are likely someone who understands Christmas Day as the end of the season. This means you probably take your tree down soon after Christmas Day. Or perhaps you’re someone who really just wants to have a clean slate at the beginning of the new year so your concern is to make sure that Christmas is put away by the time New Year’s Day comes.
Or you may be someone who puts their tree up closer to Christmas, either because of timing in your family… or because you choose to observe the season of Advent, meant to be a time of silence and quiet. This means that you’re likely to take your tree down sometime after New Year’s Day… perhaps on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6, which officially ends the season of Christmas.
Or perhaps you’re like Bp. Nedi Rivera, the bishop who ordained me. She keeps her tree up until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation, a day celebrated widely in Latino communities.
However you celebrate, whenever you take your tree down, whatever works for you and your family… what I hope is that when you take the tree down, that’s not the end of Christmas for you. And I don’t mean some schmaltzy, saccharin greeting card kind of sentiment.
I mean that I hope, I truly hope, that God’s light – the Christ light – has taken up residence in you somehow. Asked you to kneel before the manger. To leave something behind that no longer serves you and give more room to this light. And you have discovered in yourself a want, a desire… of some kind. To bring this light forward.
That is what this season is about – this Christmas season. We spend time with family and friends… or not. We watch West Wing marathons… or not. We relax and enjoy our hobbies… or not. And in all of it, we spend time in gratitude for the abundance of our lives. For even if it’s a hard or disappointing time, which “the holidays” can very well be, this Light reminds us of all that we have to be grateful for. Even if it’s just the breath in our bodies and the roof over our heads.
These readings today, these simple readings of blessing are reminders that life itself is not as complicated at it seems or as complicated as it can be in our American society. On the Christian calendar, January 1 is celebrated as The Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or just Holy Name.
This Holy Name – Jesus. The one who comes to set us free from the ways we can become overburdened with complications. The Holy Name – Jesus. The name of blessing. The name of hope. The name of simplicity.
I remember one year for Christmas, I received an interesting gift. I was fired from my job.
It was a week or so before Christmas. I was working in retail… back when people would get into long lines for things like $100 TVs and such. I was managing the front end… cashiers, customer service, etc. And I was fired because I didn’t have a sign out that invited people to consider opening a credit card. At least, that was the reason on the paperwork I received.
I was so upset. I felt a bit jilted by this company that I had given so much of my time and effort to… working 60-70 hour weeks, trying to please unpleas-able people, being bullied by my boss. And after I cried for about an hour, I suddenly realized that I never had to deal with that situation again. I never had to be bullied or made to feel small by those people. I never had to try to measure up to something that was impossible to measure up to. That was over.
What a gift. Instead of the anxiety and craziness and long hours of Christmas retail, I just quietly enjoyed my holiday with family.
And the gift didn’t stop there because it was a true turning point in my life. Without the perceived need to keep this job that I actually hated, I took time for myself. I found a job that, while it paid less, was in the arts and it was much more generous with my time. I read more and explored the city I lived in. I spent time with friends. And I embarked on a spiritual journey… which brought me to where I am today.
This gift, this blessing… was something unbidden. A light that came from somewhere else. I could only accept it. Humbly.
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians says: At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
I wonder then, what is Jesus asking of you? What is this newborn light shining itself upon? What are you ready to give up? What are you ready to begin? What does this Holy Name mean to you?
Perhaps it’s a small shift of attitude or a new insight. It doesn’t have to be a huge list of resolutions or even one huge resolution. You see, it’s not something that is imposed… unless you’re as stubborn as I can be sometimes and you need to be fired from a job you actually hate.
It’s not something that is requiring discipline, it’s something that just needs to be set free. In you. A hope that you have never let speak itself before. A light that has been waiting to shine.
So, you see, keeping Christmas is not about when the tree goes up or the tree comes down. It’s about this light… that has taken hold inside of you. Something that shifts how you see the world. Something that changes how you see yourself.
I beseech you: Let this light lead you. Let yourself surrender to this Holy Name of Jesus. This is how we take Christmas with us.