God in the Details

Joy is what we sing about at Christmas, but it’s not often what we have in our hearts. We get so distracted by work and worries that we hardly notice the season; and then, when we do notice, the logistics of the celebration can lead to more worry still.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the details of Christmas preparation. As we prepare, we need to remember that God is in the details.

I turned to the task of remembrance last year as I wrote my most recent book, Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does). I put the finishing touches on the manuscript as I was keeping the days of Advent.

Joy to the World is a book about Christmas, but it really belongs to every season — because it’s true: the incarnation has changed everything. It’s changed our world down to the smallest detail, and it should change the way we look at the details and live in our world.

In Joy to the World I examine the predictions of the prophets and the names in the genealogies. I call upon the witness of Jewish, secular, and pagan historians, as well as the early Church Fathers. I show the clear connections between the Old Testament’s foreshadowing and the New Testament’s fulfillment. Everything confirms the marvel of that particular moment in history. The testimony to the miraculous quality of Christmas is overwhelming.

Today we need the joy of Christmas. We live in a world that’s a lot like the world Jesus came to change — a world that’s losing hope, a world of cultural decline and political division, a world where the family’s breaking down. And into that darkness came a great light, brighter than the sun. Into that darkness came joy.

The good news is that it didn’t stop coming. The light shone in the darkness, which could not overcome it. The light is still coming to us, every day. This seems too good to be true, but it’s as true as truth can be, and it truly overcomes the world’s confusion, division, and rivalry.

The eternal Word “was made flesh and dwelt among us.” For every Christian that’s the turning point of history. God became incarnate in a family. God became incarnate in the kind of chubby baby flesh we grownups love to love. God became incarnate in a place you can find on a map, at a moment you can place on a timeline. Christmas is something intensely, profoundly real.

If we allow our lives to get caught up in the true drama of the season, we’ll be able to celebrate with sincerity when we get to the 25th.

I promise you my prayers in this season of grace. I ask your prayers for me and for the Saint Paul Center.

As 2014 draws to a close, I thank you for all you did for us this year. If you find it in your heart to remember us with an end-of-year, you’ll make our work of evangelization that much more effective in 2015. And we’ll be well on our way to yet another joyful Christmas!