While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-8

Even though it’s been many, many years since I was a child, I still remember the growing excitement I felt in the days leading up to Christmas. As the presents began to appear beneath the tree in the living room, I would quietly scout out the packages with my name on them, counting them to see if I had more than my brothers, and trying to guess what was inside. Then our grandparents would arrive from Minnesota, and more presents would be added, and the anticipation grew.

Finally, Christmas Eve arrived, but we still had to wait until worship was over, then dinner, then a few Christmas carols, and just when I thought we would never be able to open our gifts, permission was granted, and the frenzy ensued. Wrapping paper would fly, we would ooh and aah and say the obligatory “thank you” and we would dive back into the pile to find another present with our name on it.

And then, in just a few short minutes, it would all be over, the room would grow quiet, and I would look again to see if there was just one more present to open, perhaps hiding behind the couch or beneath the piles of wrapping paper strewn around the room. And I recall a thought entering my mind, one that I never dared give voice to, asking “Is that all?” No matter how many presents I had just opened, and no matter how fully my Christmas wish list had been fulfilled, I would always be looking for more.

I wonder if the shepherds or the magi had a similar thought. Remember, angels had just announced the birth of a new king, who would bring peace on earth. And the magi had read prophecies that were centuries old, and they assumed the new king would be born in a palace. I can picture them arriving at the manger scene, tucked behind the inn, their sandals sinking in the mud and the muck, and thinking to themselves, “Sorry, we must be in the wrong place; we were looking for someone else, something more, royal.”

Perhaps these thoughts enter our minds in these days, as well, as our congregations gather for worship. Maybe we think back to previous Christmas celebrations, when we had to put chairs in the aisles, there were dozens or hundreds of kids in the Sunday School program, the choir loft was full, and everything was just right. No matter how wonderful or meaningful our worship services might be, we may be tempted to compare them to years past and think to ourselves, “Is this all?” As we look at the many challenges and crises confronting us, we may wonder if the tiny candles we hold up as we sing “Silent Night” can withstand the cold, hard winds that want to extinguish our hope and mock our small and imperfect celebrations.

The Good News is that yes, it is enough. Our worship, our singing, our preaching, our gatherings, our love, it’s all enough. It doesn’t matter if it’s grand and glorious or small and chaotic, God takes what we have to offer and makes it all enough. The love of the universe, born in a tiny manger in a nondescript village, it’s all we have, but it’s all we need. Immanuel, God is with us, alleluia.

© 2017 Greater Milwaukee Synod

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