The Reason for the Season

A Christmas Day reflection based on Luke 2.1-20.


‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the church,
the people were stirring, all in search
of the reason for the season.(1)

The culturally-imputed reason for the Christmas season, I think, is well, indeed, more known. “‘Tis the season to be jolly! Fa la la la la la la la la!” Our joy reflected in the gatherings of family and friends, in the giving and receiving of gifts, all in joyous celebration of the goodness, the richness our lives and loves.

Yet, in these days, as in all earthly days, there is much swirling about us that is a real kill-joy. I will not belabor the point by citing a list of worldly woes. For each of us has and can innumerate our own.

Nevertheless, there is hope. For hope, I believe, is the reason for the season. And hope, I also believe, is found primarily not in our celebrations, however earnest, but rather, paradoxically, in the difficulties around us and within us that beset us – and not in spite of them, but because of them.

The key to this hope, I find in three words: “Mary…was expecting.”(2)

Mary, a teenaged mother betrothed to a village carpenter, was expecting to give birth. That she knew. But she had to be told who her baby was. The revelation came through an angelic message to shepherds, the poorest of the poor. They, initially terrified, then stirred with hope, went to Bethlehem, becoming the first evangelists, proclaiming, answering the question, “What child is this?”

Adoration of the Shepherds (1609) Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)

This strange and sacred story – a tale of waiting and witnessing from low estate to low estate – says something about where we might find hope and, thus, the reason for this season.

Let us look in the lowliest places in our lives. Places where we long for signs of relief and release. Places where we listen for words of hope and healing. Our places of expectancy. Our souls’ wombs of pregnancy where our grand dreams for ourselves and our world are conceived, but yet unborn and, without our efforts to bring them to life, are stillborn.

Let us look there and, in this season, inspired by this strange and sacred story of an almighty God taking our humble flesh, boldly expect great things of ourselves. And in that boldness, act to bring our dreams to light. In that boldness, take a step, even one step from the “is-ness” of what we know about ourselves and our world toward the “ought-ness” of what we believe might be so.

If, when we do that, then we will know how, as the shepherds, to glorify and praise God for all we have heard and seen in our very selves.


(1) With apologies to Clement Clark Moore.
(2) Luke 2.5

Illustration: Adoration of the Shepherds (1609) Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)

4 thoughts on “The Reason for the Season

  1. Paul- thank you! I’ve missed your sermons over the past few years, and this one is so on the mark. Love to you and Ponthy, and Merry Christmas! -lisa


    1. My dear Lisa, I thank you for your kind words. With the heartiest and merriest Christmas wishes, love to you, Ozgur, and Paul


  2. Merry Christmas Paul! This sermon was made for me. Yesterday on Christmas Eve I went on a two part more than 4 hr walk through DC reflecting on 2019 and planning for 2020. I had a lot of plans for 2019 that were as you put it “stillborn”….. I was disappointed that so much seemed to go wrong … but I think that one of the reasons was that I had given up hope a few times….

    I pray that 2020 will be different!! I’m thrilled that I remember that hope can get us though the most anything but we have to believe!

    Much love!


  3. Loretta, I’ve been focusing on hope quite a bit as of late. As an essential aspect of a life of faith, I sense that I’ve only begun to seek and to probe the depths of what it means to live in reliance on God’s promises. Doubtless, in time, more to come.



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