Everyone has one annual event, or one family tradition, that definitively makes Christmas official. What is yours? What ritual do you and your peeps do that inaugurates the Christmas season?
For some it's the hanging of the greens the act of putting up the tree, decorating it and the house with all those much-loved cheesy, twinkly, shiny ornaments. For others it may be a traditional cookie-baking marathon (YUMMMM) creating a multitude of different sweet delights and whose aroma brings the Christmas holiday alive in the home.
Or maybe it's the music, the first sound of a Christmas carols as you ride in the car, or maybe just endlessly rotating supply of Christmas music drifting through the house. For me and my MOM it's when she gets home from Christmas Eve services at about 1AM and we cuddle on the couch and watch "A Muppet Christmas Carol." Whatever the event or activity that makes Christmas for you, the result is a sudden surge of joy in your soul, satisfaction of spirit, peace in your heart.
you ever let yourself jump for joy? Of
course you do, you are pups and kitties, that what we do. But what gets your peeps not only on their
feet, but off their feet and into the air?|
The only place adults jump for joy that is socially sanctioned is at sporting events. When the puck skids into the net, the ball swooshes through the hoop, the player speeds over the goal line, crowds get off their seat, spring to their feet, and jump up and down with the excitement of the moment.
But other than celebrating a scoring victory in sports, they are pretty shy about expressing so much giddy happiness, that they literally jump for joy. They leave the joyful gymnastics to us and children.
In fact, in Luke 1:39-45 it's a child who jumps for joy when the miracle of Christmas first appears. In his first prophetic act, the still unborn John the Baptist leaped in his mother Elizabeth's womb when Mary walked in and greeted her. The Messiah himself is now before Elizabeth and her unborn child. This awesome proximity immediately fills Zechariah's small home with all the joy, all the hopes, all the prayers for the redeeming Messiah that the people of God have been waiting for. No wonder the yet-to-be-born John the Baptist jumps for joy.
Every few years some film studio puts out another "life of Christ" movie. No matter how pious or reverent, how controversial or creative, how inspired or uninteresting, all these films share a common vision of Jesus the Messiah, the Christ. He is always portrayed as some tall, long-locked, solemn, sermon-spouting fellow who walks as though he is treading on eggshells and whose face always looks as though he has just finished sucking on a big kosher dill pickle. I find that interesting. Every film-maker is anxious to show how being the Messiah was a soul-sobering, mind-sombering business.
Think how scandalized even the most modern film-maker would be if some radical director cast for Jesus a short guy with a round little belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly! Bawhahhaha it will never happen!
No, Jesus wasn't Santa Claus. But it's almost as if the peeps need Santa at Christmas to free them to laugh and jump for joy at Jesus' coming. If we didn't have Santa, but just had Jesus, could they be merry at Christmas? Does anyone else find something tragic about this?
Do you really think Jesus would have been such a popular party guest on the "A" list of all the local rowdies (the tax collectors, the rich, the morally lax) if he was nothing but a sad sack, despairing wet blanket?
When Jesus healed the man who had been confined to his bed for years, don't you think both the healed and the healer grabbed each other, whooped and danced, and jumped for joy at the audacity of such a miracle?
Do you really think Jesus would have just patted Jairus' daughter on the head and solemnly walked away from a child suddenly breathing again, suddenly filled with life again? Surely Jesus, who so loved to have children surround him, scooped her up and swung her around in delight, for her life was a miracle.
As the loaves and fishes began to multiply, filling the hands and bellies of more and more, until the whole hillside of five thousand plus were eating, and baskets of leftovers were being collected, did no one jump to his or her feet and let out a victory whoop?
Did Jesus' disciples just plunk down their baskets and their butt's next to a statue-still Jesus? Why can't we imagine Jesus and the disciples dissolving into a joyous food fight with all those baskets of leftovers, reveling in the unabashed excess of God's gifts?
Perhaps the peeps need Santa at Christmas to help them be merry and joyous because they have a flawed understanding of Jesus. The first reaction to Jesus' presence on earth, of God-in-our-midst, was joy. Joy so tremendous, joy so utterly overwhelming that it must somehow escape the bounds of earth itself and jump towards the heavens.
Joy to the world. . . let heaven and nature sing! Let the beat of your heart beat in rhythm with the universe. Jump for Joy!