There’s a lot of truth packed in the old saying, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all....” I’ve been doing ministry a long time and often think (to quote the author of Ecclesiastes) that “there’s nothing new under the sun.” But every time I think that, a day like last Tuesday comes along.
Check the calendar. Last Tuesday was April 21. When my mail arrived, there was a beautiful envelope from the staff of a religious organization with headquarters in Italy. The envelope was addressed to “Michael Brown and the Staff of Marble Collegiate Church.” When I opened the envelope, inside I found a Christmas card. Seriously. It had several signatures and the inscription: “Merry Christmas 2015!” We were two weeks past Easter when I received my first Christmas card of the year. I’ve never received a Christmas card in April before. Never. Not even once. Like I said, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all....”
However, having had some time to reflect upon it, those folks may have picked the best time imaginable to send that particular card. Christmas is about the new life that comes in the arrival of Jesus. And, what is Easter about? It’s about the new life that comes in the arrival of Jesus. In fact, if anything, the empty tomb is a greater birth story than the manger. The manger was about the birth of a person for a short (but incredibly significant) period of time. The empty tomb was about the re-birth of that person for all time... and about His promise that, “Because I live, you shall live also.” (John 14:19) The truth is, as you have heard me say before, without Easter there would be no Christmas. Without the Resurrection Story, Jesus would be remembered only as a prophet who flashed upon the scene in Israel for a very brief moment and died tragically. But because of Easter, the Christian Story is continually re-born. It is told over and over again, always with the power and potential to make life new for all “who have ears to hear.”
Not only is the Easter Story about One who comes with the power and potential to make all things new, that’s what the Pentecost Story is about, as well. It’s about His Spirit descending upon us, living in us, and remaining with us. In every moment, place, and situation, says Pentecost, Christ is born to us and for us. Maybe I’ll receive another card from that group following Pentecost. It would make sense then, too.
Merry Christmas on April 21. What a strange, unheard of, out-of-the-box and absolutely theologically on-target idea. I love it! Jesus is born... at Christmas... at Easter... at Pentecost... in every moment when we need a Lord and Advocate, He comes bringing life and hope. In that sense, every day is Christmas (much as every day is Easter). The inscription inside the card was a quote from Pope Francis: “Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy... He is our peace.” All that is what comes to us brand new each day. So friends, in the spring of the year with flowers blooming and beach trips soon to come, let me be the first to pass along to you the message I received last Tuesday: Merry Christmas!