Close your eyes. Count to ten. Breathe. These weeks we celebrate the Anticipation known as Advent. We await the Incarnation of God in flesh and blood and bone.
If we’re to take the angels’ encounter with the shepherds seriously, then this is no “silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” On the contrary, this is a night of supreme celebration: “Glory to God in the highest!” We interrupt this existence of suffering, restlessness and death to bring you the news that the omni-everything God of the universe has infiltrated time and space on a solo reconnaissance mission of humankind in the form of a helpless, powerless baby. All of our hopes for a better tomorrow are now born in this manger. This is the day the tide turns. The promise to Eve, to Abraham, to Moses, to David will be fulfilled. The longing of all creation will be satisfied. Death will indeed be broken. The dragon is conquered.
Maybe our nativity scenes have everything wrong. And maybe we would be quite shocked were we to see an honest depiction of what really happened at the birth of Jesus. I imagine Joseph and Mary didn’t have sentimental memories of that night. I imagine they were probably on their last fumes of energy and hope, with nothing to go on but the words of an angel months earlier and wondering, “Was that a dream? Was it all my imagination? Was all of that talk about Emannuel, God-With-Us really real? Is this really God?”
And so this season, we celebrate God becoming a man. This season we celebrate God entering human history. This season we celebrate the Incarnation. Because that is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. Yes, Christmas is about peace and love and goodwill toward men, too, but it is first about Jesus, about the grand God of the universe and his relentless love for all of us. What better day of the year to celebrate the coming of Jesus than the Winter Solstice, the darkest night of the year, when the day shines longer tomorrow. So Happy Incarnation Day.