And so Christmas is over for another year. What are we left with? Do the joy and wonder continue? Do we have greater peace and gladness than we had three days ago?
Or are there some feelings of disappointment, that after all the build up it was over so quickly, or that it didn’t quite go as we had hoped and planned? Or perhaps there’s just sheer relief that the craziness of the past few days is finally over and we can sit down and relax! Maybe we’ve already moved on to thinking about New Year’s Eve and the next celebration to plan and prepare for and the seemingly endless cycle starts again.
I love celebrating Christmas but many years I am left with these kinds of questions afterwards. What difference does it make to today and tomorrow and the next day? Is it really all just about one day?
I knew that the word “Christmas” itself is a contraction of “Christ’s Mass,” but what I didn’t know before is that the word “mass” comes from the Latin missa which is in the concluding words of the liturgical celebration. These are the words of dismissal, the words of sending out, the words of mission. That has got me thinking today. Christmas is not just about one day, but a sending out into what comes next.
Of course that is also true of the original Christmas story. It is the celebration of a birth, which is not an end itself, only the starting point for the life that follows.
This Christmas I am struck with the message the angels had for the shepherds – words which also point forward and have a sense of dismissal or commissioning to them.
“On earth, peace to humanity, for whom God has goodwill.”
(Luke 2:14, my own translation)
What does it mean to go forward knowing that God has goodwill toward us? That He is pleased with us? That He favours us and is for us? What does it mean in a world where so many people think God is against them, just waiting to smite them? Where His church has too often given them the impression that God is displeased with them?
These are the questions I am asking today, as I move forward into a new year and all that it holds. How do I take the mission of Christmas with me? How am I making it known that God loves this world – every broken, hurting, vulnerable corner of it? How does that make a difference to my every interaction and thought, my every word and deed?