The blue of the sanctuary has changed into white. The church remains in white colors for the next 12 days, and yes, the 12 days we sing about in that crazy song, are a real season, called Christmastide. Christmastide is held from sunset Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) through Epiphany (Jan. 6).
When my kids were little I wrapped our family Bible in the prettiest paper, and put a large bow on top of it. That was to be the first present opened Christmas morning. Then we all took turns reading the Christmas story in the book of Luke to start the day with our minds on Christ. We lit the Christ Candle and sang Joy to the World.
Christ has come what Joy fills our souls! Advent is an invitation. For many, it is the invitation to get into that Christmas spirit, to count down the days to the grand celebration, and let the holiday transform everything around us. We’re not all about Christmas, the holiday, about December 25 with all the jingle bells and tinsel. We are about Christmas, the Mass of Christ, the celebration of the Incarnate one who comes to remind us that we are not alone, and God is with us. We are about the longing for the coming kingdom, where we will study war no more, where people will walk in the light, where joy will be found, and love with be the tie that binds us together. That’s the home for which we long. That’s the invitation this Advent season to your church and the world: “Come home for Christmas.”
It is the simple story of peace, hope, joy and love. The story does not get old, or old fashioned. Tonight is about the tradition, about the familiar, about feeling at home in this space. Even if people are there for the first time, there is a familiarity to this night. It speaks to something deep within us, a yearning, a longing, a hunger. And this hunger is best fed by the familiar. Sing the songs you always sing. Tell the story you always tell. Light the candles and hold them up as you sing “Silent Night,” just like you did when you were a kid.
Don’t neglect the story. Don’t neglect the hope and the promise and the joy in the one who was born into this world of pain with a message of love. Let the story speak this night; it will do the work the word is sent to do. Trust in it.