I didn't think I would ever hear myself saying those words ever again, nor writing them either. Some would claim this as evidence of how far I have fallen from the "attainments" but I choose to see it more as a form of liberation from yet more rules that I was living under.
The assumption in the circles I once inhabited was that if you said the words, "Merry Christmas" that you were giving assent to the Roman Catholic church and all its doctrines, as well as corrupting the worship of God. However, now that I have had some time to sit down and think about it all away from the noise one of the things I have noticed is that no Christian I know of actually claims to worship God through the use of gifts, trees, tinsel, jolly elves, candles and all the other typical accoutrements of the season. In fact, most of the Christians I know do focus on the birth of Christ as the beginning of the work that Christ came to accomplish. These other things are rituals that may or may not be used to remind one of Christ, or else something good merely to be enjoyed for the pleasure they give, like the beautiful display of lights that some people indulge in.
Last night I went to the candlelight service at the Baptist church I now attend. What we had there was a focus on Scripture. I have to tell you that I can't ever think of the story of Christ's birth without being gripped at the heart level by what it all entailed. It is such a profound story how all the hopes and desires that Israel had been promised were finally seeing fulfillment in the tiny Lamb of God, born in Bethlehem, the city of David where the sacrificial lambs for the Temple in Jerusalem, five miles distant, were raised.
So many things come together in this story for me. The birth of Christ is a story of redemption in itself. One year I made a point of looking up all the people listed in the geneology found in Matthew. You have people who committed incest, a prostitute, a murderer and adulterer, idolaters, and other notable sinners. Yet all these sins were redeemed in the One who came from that lineage.
Then I am struck by how disruptive letting the Holiest of Holies into your life can be. Mary was without fault in the conception of the Holy One of Israel, yet she bore the infamy of being an unwed mother for years afterwards as her Son was taunted by Pharisees who knew that Abraham was their father, but who is YOURS? All His life, He did unexpected, "outside the box" things that upset and offended the conventions of the society He was born into, yet there were infallibly the right thing to do. Let this remind me that I will sometimes do unconventional things that will upset people yet still be right in God's eyes. To my own Master I stand or fall.
May this season be one where the Holy Spirit speaks to you anew of the redemption, hope, and joy to be found in Christ.