When Lily was little, we would watch the Sesame Street special “Elmo’s Christmas Countdown” (or as she called it ‘Elmo’s Christmas Counter-downer’) on repeat all winter long, even after Christmas. The star-studded special is fun to watch the first time or two and this 2007 version is better than the similar 1996 “Elmo Saves Christmas.” Having watched the special too much, I still get a little tense when it comes to mind – there is only so much Elmo one can take. Anyway, the plot goes something like: Christmas is in trouble and there are only a few days until Christmas for Elmo and Abby to save it. Through song, struggle, belief and some Christmas magic, (spoiler alert) indeed Elmo, Abby and friends save Christmas.
Sometimes we treat the season of Advent like the Elmo TV special. We get out our Advent calendars and mark the days off with little chocolates, Mariah Carey on the radio, and we rush to get gifts and go to gatherings hoping to pull Christmas off yet again this year. There’s nothing wrong with all that frenetic energy spent to bring us together with family and friends to celebrate the season – that’s one aspect of Christmas.
The “other part” of Christmas isn’t the part that needs Elmo to save it or for us to complete our to-do lists for Christmas to happen. The other part of Christmas is meant to save us – it’s God’s activity, not ours. God comes into the world in Jesus. God first acts decisively in Elizabeth and Zechariah, and then with Mary and Joseph, then with shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna. God doesn’t ask permission, or campaign to get us on board with the vision — God just acts.
Advent is a season that is meant to prepare our hearts, ready our minds, put us to doing the saving work that God began that first Christmas and continues in us today. The songs we sing, the worship we share, the ways we serve those in need, our witness that love overcomes darkness – these aren’t the actions that save Christmas, nor do they help us count-down to Christmas. This is what God does in us because of that first Christmas!
As we ease our way into the Advent season, let us rend our hearts to God and let Christmas be born anew in us. Are you ready? 3-2-1 . . . Christ has come.