It’s Christmas Eve.
Maybe you’re a bundle of anticipation, borrowing child-like excitement from your younger family members, and everything is holiday cheer and peppermint lattes as you wait for tomorrow to arrive.
Maybe you’re a bit frazzled, making a mental list of off-limits topics for your family dinner, rushing to get the last details just right, and hoping the dog won’t knock over a candle and burn down your Christmas tree.
Maybe you’re just tired—tired of the hype and the hubbub that fails to drown out the ache you feel for someone you love who won’t be here to celebrate this year, wanting to believe the words of the carols about peace on earth but not quite there right now.
Wherever you find yourself on this day before Christmas, I hope you can take a moment to slow down and remember why we celebrate: not just that Jesus came, but that Jesus is present right now, in all the chaos of the holiday season, with the imperfect, stressed-out people who he loves.
Sometimes I think we lose the present-tense of Christmas. We translate it, if not in words, in our attitudes, to something that happened once upon a time, long ago. “Hark the herald angels sang.” “Unto us a child was born.” “All was calm, all was bright.” And Christmas becomes a day to celebrate a one-time event back in Bethlehem.
It is that, of course. That’s why we read the story.
But the story isn’t over.
The beautiful thing about Jesus’ name—Immanuel—is that it means “God With Us.” Jesus came in the past and will come in the future, but he’s also here now, for those of us living in the in-between.
For the ones whose To-Do lists have taken over, the ones who will scream if one more kid sings PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM while banging on the nearest available “drum,” the ones who aren’t going to a church service because so-called Christians have misrepresented their Lord, the ones who are filled with gratitude or struggling with doubt—the young, the old, the joyful, the just plain worn out. He came for all of us.
It’s Christmas Eve. Jesus came, and he’s still here, even when the world seems very, very dark. God has not left us without hope. His promises—all of them—are still true.
It’s Christmas Eve, and God is with us.