We’re barely two weeks past Christmas, and if you are anything like me, you’re feeling the let-down of a post-Christmas world. No matter how fervent my preparation during Advent, no matter how fulfilling the hope and expectation and joy of the season, no matter how prolonged my Christmas celebrations with family and friends, come this second week in January, I feel pretty deflated. Most of the world has already forgotten about Christmas, and even the church itself has to rush away from Christmas this year in order to plan for an exceptionally early Lent and Easter.
But I have to admit something: with Christmas and Easter so close together this year, I love that we are forced to think about the full picture of Christ’s life and ministry. We plan Lent while we are still remembering Christmas. We prepare for the risen Christ when we have just barely finished preparing for his birth. This short turnaround helps us to draw stronger connections between the manger and the empty tomb. We can’t help but connect the birth of our savior with the saving acts of his death and resurrection. At the same time we rejoice in the miracle of life at Christ’s birth and we rejoice in the miracle of new life at his resurrection.
And as we look back at Christ’s birth and look ahead to his death and resurrection, we know that these events are more than just God’s attempt to put a band-aid on a broken world. These events show us that God wants nothing less than a complete reordering of the creation – a complete renewal. Revelation 21 talks about God’s plan to renew the whole creation, to eliminate death and mourning and crying and pain, to make all things new. And how does God do this? God does this by breaking into our human existence: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.” Does this sound familiar? Think back to Christmastime, when we heard similar words from John 1: “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Just as Christ came to us and lived among us in order to save us, so also at the end of time will God resurrect the whole creation to new life by coming to dwell with us. All of God’s plans for us take place by God’s inbreaking – all of our hopes for the future rest on a God who is not content to remain on high, but rather on a God who wants nothing more than to live among us.
And so, even if I feel like I’ve rushed past Christmas, and even if I feel too tired to keep focusing on images of the Christ child in the manger, especially when the world has already taken down it’s crèches, there is yet hope for me. I can look ahead at Lent and Easter and be reminded anew of the God who breaks into the world, who tears the temple curtain in two, who promises us resurrection and life, who promises us new creation…and who promises to continue to enter our world and dwell among us.