This Advent season, five Regional Executives of American Baptist regions will provide reflections focusing on “What Christmas Means to Me.” Each reflection will be posted prior to the Sundays in Advent, along with Christmas Sunday. For the fourth Sunday of Advent, Rev. Dr. Cheryl Dudley, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro New York, reflects on “What Christmas Means to Me.” Read the reflection for the first Sunday of Advent here. Read the reflection for the second Sunday of Advent here. Read the reflection for the third Sunday of Advent here.
When I was young child, despite having just heard a portrayal of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among all” at the annual Christmas Eve service, the sound of bells from Santa’s sleigh jingled instead in my head the night before Christmas. The bells’ ting-a-ling lulled me into restless sleep. Like most children, I couldn’t wait for morning to come.
Despite the best efforts of our parents, the rush when morning came took us first to the Christmas tree, which seemed to be bursting with delightfully wrapped gifts. Despite the happiness of unwrapping the gifts with my name on them, which revealed toys as well as necessities, the Christmas morning adrenalin quickly faded to, “Okay…, now what?”
Preparing for Christmas is encumbered with expectations for those of any age. Even the mature (read older) and faithful can get themselves in a twitter like Martha who was worried and upset about many things.[i] Expectations around Christmas, fueled by the ting-a-lings in our heads, are difficult to satisfy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Scrooge, I love the giving and receiving of gifts – being remembered and remembering others with carefully chosen gifts adorned with ribbon is wonderful. These actions are infused with good intentions and love. Yet, like Martha’s sister Mary, our souls long for things that satisfy – are lasting and have enduring meaning.[ii]
This Christmas I am drawn to the words found in Psalm 17:15.
As for me, because I am innocent I will see your face; when I awake you will reveal yourself to me. [iii]
May the Christ whom we adore and celebrate at this time create an innocence and longing within us this year, and wake us up to a new revelation of hope and God’s enduring love.
Let us now, in our hearts, rush not to the tree, but to the manger with a carol in our hearts to celebrate the birth of the very special, duly appointed child, who has changed the world.
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night, he will bring us goodness and light. [iv]
Rev. Dr. Cheryl Dudley
ABC Metro New York, NY, NY
[i] Luke 10:38-42
[iii] New English Translation of the Bible
[iv] Do you Hear What I Hear? A Carol by Lyrics by Noël Regney, lyrics and by Gloria Shayne Baker music, October 1962