2020 is the first year I have not officiated at a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in almost 21 years of ordained ministry.
Yes, there will be a Zoom Christmas Eve service and yes, one on Christmas Day, too, but I am nostalgic and a little depressed like everyone else.
Walmart and the rest of the stores have been ready for Christmas since Halloween. At least the season of Advent waiting has limited that for me.
Christmas is way more than getting the latest gadget or toy or new truck. It is not at all about the hyper-consumerism we in America have made it.
It is not about how much you can show off with the latest thing. It is about teaching that all that “stuff” is just not all that important.
In fact, Christmas is not about human giving at all. It is about God’s giving to us.
Christians believe that God became man and dwelt among us. We are told by St. Paul that we are to “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.”
Jesus cut to the chase when he said, “The first and greatest commandment is to love and serve the Lord, with all your heart, mind, and soul. The second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets.”
So that’s it? God loves us, we love God and everything is copacetic?
Except there is that last part about loving my neighbor. Who is my neighbor? Do I get to pick?
Seems like it in these days of hyper-partisanship with vicious Tweets and ugly Facebook quotes more full of lies than love.
Maybe we have tried and found it just too exhausting. Biblically we aren’t trying enough.
We have relied on the grace of God and not regarded those short verses in Matthew 25, where Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
That is what we celebrate at Christmas: God coming into the world to help us and save us.
God did this without force, superior weapons or riches, and God expects us to do the same.
Not one disciple was a rock star or a rich man. Jesus favored the poor and the oppressed and likely still does.
These days that doesn’t seem like the American way, does it? More like: everyone for himself, eh?
Fortunately love at Christmas is manifested by the example of God’s love of humankind so much that he sent Jesus, his only son, to save us.
This horrible pandemic year manifests love in separation, mask wearing and hand washing.
If we do those things which we have known for months (and get vaccinated by mid-2021) we will once again be together at the table for Christmas dinner, laughing and loving close. Merry Christmas!
The Rev. Dr. Mike Fay is rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Salida.