I don't know just what happened to you this past weekend, but in
churches along the Eastern Seaboard we had serious scheduling
challenges. We had nearly a foot of snow arriving right at worship time
So one church I know delayed their Christmas Pageant until well into
the New Year. Another one re-scheduled a big meal. We held a small
worship service here but (sadly) suspended singing the Messiah.
All over, many Advent and Christmas activities got pushed into the
Now that it is Christmas Eve, I'd like to ponder New Years, for a
moment. And frankly not just any New Year at first but the one that
took place a decade ago, when we turned over the calendar from 1999 to
a fresh millennium in 2000. I'd like to ponder what was happening ten
years ago to see what we discern about our current Christmas experience
and the time ahead.
Do you remember New Year's Eve 1999? Do you remember where you were?
I was in Maine. It was cold. And it was also bitter, because for months
prior to that night, you and I had been subjected to predictions that
on a rolling, global scale there was a decent chance that lights would
go out, computers would shut down, aircraft would be unguided, and food
sources would suffer injury. The Millennium Bug was feared to wreak
havoc on our globe, and many, many otherwise circumspect and civil
people were hoarding water, batteries, and Dinty Moore dinners in their
basements. Folks went off to the hills in Montana and probably even
Wellesley Hills, concerned for their condition. Apocalyptic -- usually
a Biblical word -- became a lifestyle around Christmas 1999.
And then, as you'll remember, nothing happened.
And then, as we know, something did.
Instead of an instantaneous event, there was a rolling Millennial
Bug. For between the years 1999 and 2009 many predictions came to pass,
not in a minute but across a decade.
Has anyone here not lost a computer since 1999? Did everyone here
remember to back up your hard drive regularly, or like me have you lost
family pictures and tax records at least once? Does anyone here drink
tap water, always? Have we forgotten all the armed conflicts of the
decade or overlooked those who hoard weapons and use them, even
domestically? I was stuck in traffic during the Canadian/ American
Blackout of 2003. It was big -- 55 million affected. At different times
I've avoided spinach, hamburger, tomatoes, SARS, swine flu, and more
due to reported dangers. It seems that the Millennium Bug came to pass,
little by little.
Christmas is like that, too.
Many of us think it will happen in a flash, and we gather our
material ornaments around us, and we focus all of our joy or as the
hymn says, the hopes and fears of all the years, in one hour, one
night, one event. Which is not entirely wrong. But it's not entire,
either. Christmas begins here, but if it doesn't spread out, if it
doesn't slide into the New Year to all the needs of all the globe, it
isn't God's Christmas but something else.
- Isaiah said that the child to be born was Prince of Peace.
- At His birth, Luke said Jesus would guide our feet in the way of
- Micah said that David's successor would be a Bethlehemite.
- Luke says Jesus was there briefly but moved elsewhere to grow up
and to minister.
- The shepherds saw a light in the heavens, and filled with both
fear and awe they thought that was their God.
- But the angels said the heavens were not the place to find the
true sign, indeed they literally said that the sign was on the
earth: a babe, wrapped in swaddling cloths, in a feeding trough, as
if the symbol could be any more obvious to those who tended sheep.
This birth takes
time. This birth takes movement. This birth is in our midst and our
I bet you've heard the story of Jesus' birth a score of times or
more. But notice again this one simple fact: it takes one half of one
verse to proclaim that Jesus is born. The other nineteen and a half
verses of this same story are all about how we react, what we do next,
and what it takes for His birth to push into our history.
Christmas is New Years for Christians. It is the fresh start of
hope. It is delivery on a promise. It is the sort of peace that means
wholeness, so everyone must be invited. And it is not contained in the heavens, because heaven itself looks to earth this night to see God
In church this past week, something bigger than us, more powerful
than us made us change our plans. So we moved pageant, meal, and Messiah
from where we thought they should be. Something bigger than us, more
powerful than us pushed them into our future. Which is, frankly, where
God said they would be all along.
So delight in this evening, this day, this gift. Rejoice that it is
finally here. Surround yourself with holy light, as an angel chorus.
But don't leave Christmas here tonight. It is just beginning. And all
its promises will come to pass. Amen.
Copyright © 2009 Kenneth F. Baily. Used by permission.