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Opening night

My family and I savored some 3-D delights of the recently released animated version of A Christmas Carol on its opening day. My children, being fans of Jim Carey’s farcical talents, and I, a lover of stories I knew as a kid, discovered a new ritual to prep us for the Christmas season, like the first snowfall of December. The movie was itself the “…scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas’ long, long ago” about which we sing every year.

I was personally moved by the film’s images of Christmas Eve as a wildly festive occasion full of dance and drink and food and friends. The grand event erupted upon the creaky floors of an accountant’s shop where Ebenezer once worked as a young man, tucked among the cold alleys of 19th century London. And it struck me immediately, “Why do we no longer celebrate like that? What could others see as they peered through the windows of my own living room on a Christmas Eve yet to come? My wife loves to dance, so why don’t we on this most amazing of nights?” Maybe it was the ghost of Christmas future that got me thinking.

It being the Eve of the greatest day of the year, I remind you that tonight the darkness of Advent is pierced by the light of Christmas, the light that is Jesus himself. The “mourning of exile” (O Come Immanuel) is finally met with rejoicing. The waiting and anticipation are overcome with enduring joy and celebration. Tonight is that night! Tonight begins a jubilation (or “Whobilation” if you’re a little green person who lives on a snowflake) unlike any other!

A contemporary writer tells of the scenes that unfolded long ago on May 8, 1945. First from Paris, then London, the home footage of thousands of joyful faces pouring onto streets throughout Europe to celebrate the end of the war. Hitler was dead, and Nazi Germany turned back. VE (Victory in Europe) Day broke out as a mass of “celebrations so utterly unscripted and purely joyful” by people who had every reason to do so. “Soldiers kissed by young girls, champagne corks popping, aircraft flying in formation overhead, elderly folks and children all waving small flags, people dancing, laughing, and weeping. The raucous party was enough to bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes.”

Caught up in the busyness of our holiday culture, on top of an already full life of struggles and skirmishes and disappointments, we forget that the “war” will one day end. In a life where it seems always to be winter but Christmas never comes (C.S. Lewis), indeed it does! Tonight we sing the songs of freedom, hope, joy, peace, and love—all from, through, and to a God who has secured victory. Tonight at midnight I will take in the great occasion at the cathedral of St Francis downtown Grand Rapids where the bells will sound the victory of God with us—“Immanuel.”

At the same time, we must also know that tonight is but a prelude; one day Jesus will return, but then in far different fashion (Revelation 19-22). Salvation and power will be established, the Kingdom of our God, the authority of His Messiah! (Revelation 12.) Tonight ushers us to the great party that is Christmas, and Christmas points us to the great celebration we will know at the return of Jesus.

So, celebrate well this “Opening Night” of God’s grand story. And if you’re going to dance, be sure to invite my wife and me.

Pastor Chad Wight,
The Journey Church
chad@thejourneychurch.net

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