Christmas really is a chaotic time.
In the beginning of the Torah it says that the Earth was formless and void. The picture was of chaos until God’s Spirit began to move over the face of the Earth. The Spirit transformed and redeemed the chaos over a period of time. In the beginning of the two birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, God again sends forth his Spirit to redeem a world that is filled with chaos by bringing hope through a betrothed virgin. His legal father Joseph names him Jesus, which basically means God saves.
The Gospels tell of why we worship a peasant king that was greeted not by dignitaries but by dirty shepherds. We learn of gifts brought by the wisemen that visited the infant/toddler Jesus. A visit that led to the slaughter of the innocent and the exodus of Jesus and his parents to become refugees and migrants in a foreign land. The first Christmas was a crazy frenzy of chaos with unplanned births, unplanned funerals, and unplanned sojourns. All of which were in God’s plan to bring about salvation.
This was all real chaos. Joesph and Mary and the baby they carried were totally directed by God’s providence that kept them in the midsts of a tempest that sought to destroy them. We now millennia later hear the echoes of redemption strongly once a year from saint and sinner alike and see a glimmer of how God’s incarnation has began to even redeem the chaos created by human sin.
Our world especially outside the West does not celebrate Easter. It is Easter after all where Christ is victor over death and sin. Easter in much of the West is co-opted with bunnies, spring clothing sales, and Easter egg hunts and for many it is just another holiday that has a changing date that baffles a majority that have no memory of lunar calendars. Christmas still captures the global imagination every December 25th. It is at Christmas time where we celebrate when God paradoxically became flesh while remaining fully God and dwelt among us that still captures the imagination of people like us. It is at Christmas where we see even the redemption of chaos from something of destruction and disquiet into a frenzy of anticipated delight. It is a Christmas time where hope is born. It is a Christmas time where celebration begins and the hope of peace on Earth is promised.
The incarnation still breaks through a myriad of cultural narratives. The very word Christmas points to a babe in the manger. It is at Christmas time where East and West meet. A story spreads across the globe of God’s love taking human form. The story of Santa Claus is the story of Saint Nicholas that loved his neighbor and gave of his wealth to help the poor in the name of Christ at Christmastime.
Before Jesus, chaos meant facing reality with a God that was silent to most of humanity. After Jesus, the babe in the manger promises hope for everyone that would believe that God sent this Son to redeem the world. Most of us in the Western world live normally comfortable lives. We do face the reality of living in a broken world but there is still much common good in our societies. Our chaos during Christmas time has even been redeemed from some of the sting of systemic evil. Without Christ, the whole world would be Allepo. That is the chaos of a society where the echoes of the incarnation are as a whole silent.
We hear singers secular and saints alike sing melodies of what his mother knew and that her baby boy was going to grow up and be the Savior. Christmas in the best parts and worst parts of the chaos of consumerism that Charlie Brown laments, the worship wars over the profanity orprofitability of canceling Christmas day worship, and the frantic frenzy of preparation for celebrations with families and friends all still point ultimately point back to Christ incarnation.
The theme of Christmas unites much of the world for one day a year to love your neighbor even when we are not certain who is our neighbor. The anticipation of joy is there even when the headlines tell of strife and death. The baby in the manger who was the promised King of the Jews whom God would use to save the world still echoes all these millennia after his incarnation.
Christmas is about the redemption of chaos.
We in the West and America as a whole are incredibly blessed at this time of year that our chaos is for the majority a calm chaos of the frenzy of celebration. So enjoy the good chaos at this time of year. Why? Because celebration and hope are part of God’s gift to all of us. Christmas is the beginning of the redemption of chaos.