Christmas 1 (1st Sunday after Christmas)
I don’t know about you, but I often feel a little flat the day after Christmas.
On Christmas Day, I try to focus on the good in people, the good in the presents I received, the good in the food and drink I enjoy, and the good times I have with my family.
On Christmas Day I tend to be a little more patient with people, a little more patient with things that need cleaning, a little more patient with what needs to be done.
Christmas Day is a day of happiness, joy and celebration, and if there is anything that threatens to upset this day, I will often try to ignore it or deal with it tomorrow.
Well, today is Christmas Day’s tomorrow. Today I feel a little more tired, a little more worn out, and a little more drained. The good I focussed on yesterday has become a little harder to see. What I left undone yesterday now needs to be tackled.
Christmas Day is often a day where we try to escape from reality and all our problems, our work, and our petty arguments. We focus on the good instead of the bad.
But the day after Christmas Day is a day when we all come back down to earth. Reality hits again. Work beckons, children fight, gifts break or don’t fit as planned, the bank balance has shrunk considerably, and the bills will start rolling in.
Of course, this is not the same for all people. Some people’s Christmas Day is also tinged with sadness and grief, especially if loved ones were missing, either through distance or death. If one’s health has deteriorated during the year, some may find that their Christmas celebrations are not the same as they used to be.
I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one who feels a little flat after Christmas, but maybe others feel the same.
Yesterday we heard again the good news of Jesus’ birth. Angels and shepherds sang praise to God because he has come to be with his people. Truly cause for celebration, hope and joy. But what do we hear today? He is already being chased by death!
From the very beginning, death chased him. He and his family needed to flee out of his own land so that he would survive infancy. He had to escape to Egypt, the place from which God had already saved his people so long ago.
Isn’t it strange that here is God himself, the King of all creation, who is all-powerful, but now needs to run from Herod’s butcher’s knife.
Of course, we know how the story then develops. Jesus’ whole life is one of obedience to his Father in heaven as he endures suffering, criticism, beatings, and even death.
Oh what a morbid subject to talk about the day after Christmas Day!
But this is reality!
Jesus, the one through whom all things came into being, came to us in human flesh in order to establish our salvation through his suffering. This means that as he entered our world in human flesh, he also lived in our bittersweet reality, felt our excitement and fears, and would even experience the loneliness of death.
The King of creation, who has no peer on earth, now calls us his brothers and sisters because he is like one of us – one of us in flesh, but also one of us who has experienced suffering and temptations just like us, although with one exception – he remains without sin. Despite the fact he has no beginning or end, he also experienced the isolation and finality of death, just like all of us will.
Jesus knows that death and fear love to surround us and often stand at the edges of our celebrations. Death, the fear of death, or the slow death of aging will spoil our joys and will easily bring us down into a helpless state of despair or depression. He knows this. He has experienced it.
In this way, just like a good lawyer needs to get to know his client and a good doctor needs to get to know his patient, so too Jesus is able to identify with you – with all your frustrations, your temptations, your sufferings, your flat days, and he is also familiar with your eventual victor – death itself.
Jesus came to suffer and die in order that he may identify with your suffering, but also so that you will not despair of your suffering or lose hope in the face of death.
He frees you from your slavery to death and the fear of death. Yes, they are still there, staring and threatening you on your days of celebrations, your days of regret, and on your depressing days, but that’s all they can do – glare and threaten you. They no longer have any teeth. Even when you look in the mirror and are reminded of your dying through your aging, you can shout back that Jesus doesn’t even help the angels, but he helps you in your weaknesses.
Jesus, through his death, has destroyed the power of death. The devil is defeated.
Jesus, through his suffering and death, is now able to identify with you, even in your post-Christmas celebrations, or your post-Christmas blues.
Herod was not victorious over Jesus. Jesus and his family survived.
Suffering and temptations were not victorious over Jesus. Jesus endured and remained faithful and obedient.
Death was not victorious over Jesus. Jesus still lives and still stands before God the Father, feeling your pains, your sorrows, your depression, your suffering and your fears. He stands there, whispering in his Father’s ear, asking for mercy, claiming that you are his brother, his sister. You are one with him through faith. He will not be unfaithful to you or abandon you.
I don’t know about you, but I often feel a little flat the day after Christmas. Yet, I also know that Jesus will remain triumphant and will be faithful to you and I, no matter how we feel today, or tomorrow, or the next, or…
Because the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.