“But the angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:10-11)
There is an old proverb that I cannot but think about during the Christmas season. It says, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” meaning that the more you spend time with someone or something, the less you appreciate them.
If we were all honest, we all could probably acknowledge that sometimes we experience challenges in appreciating those things that are familiar to us. For example, how often are we encouraged to upgrade to a new cellphone that has more technology, or buy a car that is shinier than our current one, or move into a new home because our current one is old? We are even encouraged to upgrade our personal relationships.
Familiarity often leads to us not viewing or treating someone or something in ways that honor their importance to us.
Familiarity is not only a challenge to our human relationships. It can harm our faith as well. Sometimes we can be too familiar with Advent and everything that occurs within the Christmas story.
We can quote verbatim the words of the angels to Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, and the shepherds. We already know that, despite what it may look like, the Christ-child will make an impact on the world. We know that the wise men will not only deliver gifts to Mary and her newborn but that they will also flee the area and not experience any punishment from Herod.
We know that Simeon and Anna will both see the baby Jesus at the Temple and they will celebrate and worship God because they had finally experienced the moment they had both spent their lives waiting for.
As we once again experience Advent and the arrival that serves as its foundation, we should seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in becoming unsettled by the joy and wonder that the characters in the various stories had when they came in contact with the baby Jesus. Through this, we can also recapture the joy that we had the first time we believed in the Christmas story and how it represents God’s love.
Terrell Carter is executive director of Rise Community Development, and pastor of Webster Groves Baptist Church in Webster Groves, Missouri. He is also the author of the book Taking Apart Bootstrap Theology.