As a child, Christmas never came soon enough. As an adult, I never seem to have enough time. I need time to plan and prepare. Christmas is hard work. There is work at the church and work at home. As Christmas gets closer, the work intensifies. All I want to do is rest. Ironically, rest is the thing I look forward to most about Christmas. But given the nature of my job as a priest, I need Christmas to be over before my rest can begin. Thus the irony.
Once it’s all over, friends often ask me if I enjoyed the holidays. The answer is relative, because it depends how I feel about my work. Was my Christmas Eve Sermon worthy? Or, did I mess up Silent Night on the harmonica? Did I make enough pastoral visits? I can be my own worst critic. Yet, this is not really what they are asking. I know they are asking if I was properly rested with family, food, and festivities.
I smile because the nature of the question is deeper than most people recognize. In the dictionary, holiday means break, even on a national and official capacity. The technical definition is: a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done. In British use, it means vacation. But the word comes from Old English, hāligdæg. The original meaning is Holy Day.
We think of Christmas as a holiday. It is meant to be a day of rest and no work. At the deepest level, Christmas is meant to be holy. It is meant to be a Holy Day more than a vacation or break.
When I was a child Christmas never came soon enough. As an adult, I need more time. But Christmas is coming whether I am ready, or not. It is coming with or without the planning and preparations. The point is not to rest and relax. The point is to be holy. God is coming whether we are ready or not, holy or not. The incarnation means God coming into the world, not for our rest, but to make the whole world holy.
Come and celebrate Christmas with us! Hear the Scriptures read and the Gospel preached. Sing the carols with us. Let your heart be filled with the Christmas spirit at church. May your Christmas joy be holy!