Merry Christmas dear friends!  This was my Sunday Christmas Day column.  I didn’t post it yet, so my apologies.  I hope it remains relevant for you.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus

Christ. We’ve been preparing for weeks; maybe months (if the
Christmas music on the radio is any indication). Our homes are
decorated with lights and trees. We’ve purchased too many gifts and
eaten too much food. We’ve worn shocking red and green clothes. Even
today may have traveled to see family and friends; sometimes people we
don’t particularly like, but love nonetheless.

Christmas, in my opinion, transports us to a kind of glorious,
frantic madness. We stretch it out as long as possible, and celebrate
it as well as we can afford (and maybe a little more). We desperately
try to balance our spirituality with our consumer impulses. But even
the madness is a kind of delight for most of us.

To some Christian believers it’s a bit too pagan. For many
non-believers it all appears merely a celebration of ludicrous
mythologies. For others still it is the credit-crushing evidence of
American greed and materialism. But detractors aside, believers and
children alike understand that Christmas is a time of wonderful
insanity.

The French say, at Easter, ‘l’amour de Dieu est folie!’ The love of
God is madness. Indeed, it may be that we go a little Christmas crazy
because we are washed over with the love of God, whether we know it or
not. That even if we don’t believe, even if we consider the story a
fairy tale fit only for the nursery, it’s still an amazing one. Still
a story that, if false, came from the hopeful hearts of broken men and
women and that remains our deep, cherished dream.

You see, it’s a madness that reminds us of some very important
things, at least in my humble analysis. We give lavishly because we
were gifted lavishly. The child in the manger, and the redemption He
brought, was a gift we still cannot fathom despite our best attempts
at theology. I wonder, therefore, if our excess gift giving is a
profound (however fallen) attempt to give as lavishly as we were
given.

It’s also the madness of something new, for we all love new things!
New babies, new stories, new technologies and new movements. The
Christmas story is still new, 2000 years after it was first told. The
idea that all men are equal before God, that all men (kings and
peasants) were equally sinful and equally loved was a cataclysm that
still stuns our hearts and shaped our modern world. I doubt if the
idea will ever really become an old one. I certainly hope not, I
should say.
And it’s a kind of madness that resembles an illusion. At Christmas,
nothing is as it seems. Whether we see this in the character of
George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, the person of Scrooge in A
Christmas Carol, the wee sorry tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas or
the silent bell of The Polar Express, Christmas reminds us that the
world is brighter and more hopeful than it appears, even in our
darkest, most hopeless, most unbelieving moments.

The child born in the manger, simply, quietly, in an unobtrusive way,
in an unimpressive place to parents of no influence, well that child
appeared unimportant. But He inspired madness. Because He was far
more than he appeared. Hidden in the manger was the power that shaped
the universe. Lying in the straw, covered in cloths, was the child
who would become the man, who would be the sacrifice for all, and
whose touch, example and words would radically change lives, cure
diseases, forgive sin and conquer death. Nothing was as it seemed.
The poorest and the richest, kings and wise men all clamored to see
Him and worship Him; what an oddity!

It’s all crazy, you see. And all of us who believe it are, quite
frankly, a little off our rockers. But that doesn’t mean we’re wrong.
We all want to see Him still. Or something He represents. And He
welcomes us at Christmas. In our doubt, fear, poverty, riches, sorrow
and joy; despite our importance or irrelevance, we are called to the
manger.

Whether we are broken or whole, it makes no difference. We all may
find ourselves headed towards Bethlehem, crazy with sorrow or joy, mad
as hatters, dripping tinsel and eating cookies, checking bank accounts
and longing for the past, or the future.

For only there, with Him, is our madness turned to sanity at last.
Only there does the love of God finally make sense.