Even before COVID, I was surprised to find churches cancelling Christmas Day services. The rationale usually was that people were going to Christmas Eve service and so attendance at a Christmas Day service was almost non-existent. Why go to all the trouble to prepare a service that no one will attend? It looks like a waste of time and energy that could be spent enjoying the day.
I’d say that’s true, but I’d also say that’s true about Sundays as well. Most of us can find plenty of other things to do. Yet, Christmas Day, along with other holidays that have fallen by the wayside, such as Epiphany, Ascension Day, and Easter Vigil, were all considered essential in the life of the church up until modern times. I can’t say I’m all that surprised these holidays have fallen off the calendar. We have ceased to make the church the center of our community and of our daily lives, or, more specifically, we cease to make Christ the center of our lives.
In Colossians 3, St. Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” St. Paul uses some of that same sort of baptismal language we find in Romans 6, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” or Galatians 3, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The idea Paul presents is that, through my baptism, Christ’s life is joined with mine. His death is my death. His resurrection is my resurrection. Everywhere He goes, I go too.
I’m reminded of when my son was a few years younger. My wife is a big fan of baby-wearing. Instead of driving your child everywhere in a stroller, you wrap them up or put them in a specially designed pouch and wear your child on your front or on your back. They go where you go and see what you see. Your kids can talk to you and experience life with you, but they can’t run off and get lost. Their lives are merged with yours. You do all of the heavy lifting. They just come along for the ride. Their lives are hidden with yours.
The baptismal language of Paul describes a very similar idea. Our lives are “hidden with God in Christ.” We are there with him, tucked on His back. We go where He goes. We see what He sees. As long as we are there, we can’t get lost. Our life is His life.
Now, it’s one thing to miss a Sunday or other holiday because you’re sick or there’s some other kind of problem that prevents you from going. That’s part of life in this broken world. It’s another thing to think that time in worship is unimportant, when in reality, spending time in God’s presence is the most essential aspect of who we are.
The early church did not single out these days because they were meaningless, far from it. Christmas Day, Epiphany, and the other holidays that get sidelined because they don’t fall on Sunday are all major events in the life of Christ and that means they are major events in our lives as well. Christ’s life is the very center of our Christian life. His Epiphany is ours. His Ascension is ours. His rest in the tomb on Holy Saturday is ours. Christ takes on our humanity, from birth to death and everything in between. He takes all of it so that our humanity can be redeemed. He then gives us that redeemed and restored humanity back to us. His life, given to us and for us.
This year, take the time to see what Jesus is doing. Let your life be hidden with his. Let him carry you around and show you all of the things He wants you to see. He has grace and love in abundance to give you. He has marvels and wonders he wants you to see. Set aside your busy life for a while and let him care for you instead.