In the Lectionary

Sunday, December 23, 2012: Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

Over the years I’ve taken part in some amazing celebrations. As a native Atlantan, I remember the moment in 1990 when we heard the announcement on the radio that the Summer Olympics were coming to our city. People began honking car horns and spontaneously hugging strangers in the streets. Five years later the Atlanta Braves won their first (and only) World Series title, and my friends and I stayed up all night toasting our champions. Then there was the moment when my wife and I learned that she was pregnant—after years of hearing that this was not likely to happen. Tears ran down our faces as we embraced one another.

Each of these examples reminds me that celebrations almost always take place after there’s been a determination. Nobody popped that champagne cork for the Braves until they’d recorded the final out against the Cleveland Indians. It would have been premature to celebrate before the game was over. Similarly, my wife and I did not celebrate the end to years of infertility until we had a pregnancy test result that we could see with our own eyes.

The only celebration that seems different was waiting, as a young child, at the top of our family’s staircase on Christmas morning. I’d stand with my two younger brothers and fidget with anticipation while my father turned on the Christmas tree lights and checked to see if Santa had bothered to leave us any presents. Even before he came back to report to us, however, my brothers and I would jump around excitedly, hugging one another and passing around high fives. Every year we knew without a doubt that the promise of gifts on Christmas morning was real. Before we’d seen a single gift, the celebration was already in full swing.