Getting Ready for Christmas

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  November 29, 2014

            Many years ago, in a different community, I lived very near the railroad tracks. The first night I slept in that room the sound of the train rumbling and whistling past my home was a frustrating and unwelcome interruption in the middle of my night’s sleep. It did not take long, however, for me to disregard the noisy interruption and soon I found that I slept through the night completely unaware of the rancorous noise rumbling past my bedroom window at all hours of the night.
            In the four weeks leading up to the Christmas celebration, a major theme of Christian worship is keeping oneself attuned to, and prepared for, the coming of Christ. We anticipate the remembrance of his birth as a singular and vitally important moment in the course of human history. At the same time, we look forward to that great and glorious day when Christ will return and resume his kingdom on earth.
            Living in-between those two sacred events—the historical birth and the future coming—presents challenges of awareness, wakefulness, and attentiveness that must be taken seriously. Jesus speaks about this reality at several points in the Bible. One of them is in his sermon from Mark 13. In this vivid account of the disillusionment, violence, and craziness of the modern day, he speaks in apocalyptic terms of the end of the days and what it means to anticipate the second coming.
            Jesus says to “keep awake” because nobody knows, nor can anyone truly know, when the blessed return of Christ will happen. There is no mistaking the fact that bad things will happen. Wars will rage, natural disasters will interrupt lives, riots will break out, calamity will fall on whole communities, and the natural busyness of everyday life will continue unabated.
            The trouble is, in today’s world, it is easy to become complacent; even deaf blind to the realities of our world. With the ubiquitous availability of information, news travels faster than ever. Along with it are a host of interpretations, opinions, and prognostications on what that news means. We can become addicted to information and also numb from it. Consequently, as horrific situations arise, we may also be so anesthetized to the realities of human suffering, violence, inequality, and injustice that we merely process the base reality.
            The time before Christmas can serve as a holy reality-check that jolts us into sacred awareness of the true needs in our world. It is a wake-up-call to take into account the real implications of human need and the call for Christians. It is a jolting reminder to stand in the gap to make a positive, peaceful, and meaningful difference for Christ.
It is too easy to ignore the cries of human need as they are lost in the cacophony of daily living. The train moves past, whistle blowing and rumbling along, but our lives quickly and easily ignore the sounds out of sheer familiarity and we do nothing but continue in oblivious slumber. Jesus says, “Keep awake!”
            The need is real. Systemic injustice, inequality, and hatred dominate the world in ways that are easy to ignore until something rattles our cage and gets our attention. When world events explode on the news and disillusionment flies, the Christian call is not to shake our heads in disgust or disbelief. As followers of Christ, our call is to compassionate understanding, and grace.
            As we prepare for Christmas this year, let us do more than normal. Let us faithfully understand those in need and make a true difference in the name of Christ.