Well, all I can say is... whew! The last couple weeks have been a bit of a blur, and unfortunately part of that is due to the fact that I've been sick. I started getting a sinus infection after my trip in early Dec. to Edinburgh, Scotland. If you have not been to Edinburgh, I highly recommend going there, if possible. Such a beautiful city. I thought about getting medicine before leaving for the holidays, but I started feeling better, so I didn't worry about it. Then I flew from the UK to the US for Christmas break.
By the time I landed in Oklahoma City on Thursday afternoon, my ears were bothering me and I was feeling sick again. And, as tends to happen in my life, my timing was a bit off. I flew again, on Saturday morning, to Seattle. It was great to be in the Northwest again, and I was able to visit several good friends, but my time there was marred by the fact that I was getting sicker, and had to go to the doctor, and spent a couple days just laying (or is it lying?) around in bed. I also ended up having to postpone my return flight from Tuesday to Thursday in order to let the antibiotics get to work so I felt well enough to fly. Not the way I wanted to spend my time in Seattle, but thanks to good friends like Roy, I still had a good visit.
So, anyway, now I'm back in OKC and recovering. I'm still very thankful to be back in the US for Christmas and to have the chance to see family and friends, but I also have a lot of writing to get done and I'm trying to figure out how to manage my time and rest enough to get well completely. I'm sure I'll be fine, but you know how when you're just sick enough that you feel sluggish and not-quite-coherent (in addition to the sniffling and coughing), but not sick enough to just sleep all day and have someone bring you soup? :-) Well, I've felt that way for two weeks now, and it's getting old. haha.
But, enough whining. There is a time of celebration at hand, and I refuse to let my minor sufferings take away from the hope and joy that are represented by this season of the year. But this is also a time for serious reflection. The Christmas season, as I'm sure we've all heard many times, is not about presents or trees or lights or snow or caroling. It's not even really about family or church services. All those things are great, but Christmas, at its core, is about sacrifice, humility, and transformation. It's about the belief that God loves us enough to sacrifice Godself (remember, Jesus is God, not just God's 'son') in order to restore humanity to a relationship with God.
I suppose it's easy to hear that and simply say, 'yeah, how true', without really thinking about what it means. I know I've done that. But if we are people who genuinely believe that the Christian faith contains actual truth, then one of the most basic truths of our faith is this: God's sacrifice begins and ends with Incarnation. In other words, Jesus' birth -- whatever the time of year, and however the events historically played out -- was and is the event that changed history. But not only history, it also changed reality itself. God actually became a person -- a huge act of self-sacrificial love on God's part -- in order to provide an ontological connection, so to speak, with humanity.
All this really means is that without Jesus, God and humanity would still be separated somehow. Could God have made this metaphysical connection to us some other way? Perhaps. But Christians believe that Jesus is the way God did it, even if we don't fully grasp everything that means. So, this is why it is so important that the Christmas story is not just a nice anecdote that we tell to make our hearts feel warm as we enjoy our meals with loved ones. The Christmas story has to be historically valid if God really is connected to the human world in a meaningful way. And, the Christmas story is the event that shifts all of reality, since it is the decisive moment where God meets us.
To really ponder all this should, I think, make us uneasy at first because it calls us to a much greater sense of humility, gratitude, and self-reflection than we often desire. Some may simply shrug or scoff and say that it's nothing more than a story. But for those of us who call ourselves Christians, Christmas is a reminder that God has changed, and is changing, reality. That makes Christmas a profound opportunity for us to examine ourselves and see whether we have been allowing God to shape our realities or whether we have been fighting against God's 'reshaping'. I don't know about you, but I do that a lot.
So, I guess what I'm saying is, I hope and pray that we will all acquire a new sense of the importance of allowing God to shape our lives during this Christmas season, so that the reality of God's love and grace may be more fully seen in our world. Merry Christmas everyone.