Remember last year at this time? Vaccines for the coronavirus were still being researched and developed. Many summer activities were canceled or postponed. As a way of providing hope, a local radio station did a twenty-four hour 'Christmas in July' music marathon. Twenty-four hours in July of Christmas music.
Over those particular twenty-four hours, I didn't listen to that radio station. At all. Which is a shame, because usually I do, and usually enjoy the music played on the station. Listening to Christmas music in July, during a pandemic, just seemed, well, a little off. I just could not bring myself to listen to Christmas music in July.
Fast forward a year. In planning ahead, there was the realization the days in July match the days in December. Both months have the same exact daily numerical listing. Thinking switched to "wouldn't it be cool (no pun intended) if we had a Christmas in July service on Sunday, July 25th?" The idea was dismissed, until our organist, Holly, commented "we should do a Christmas in July service."
Celebrating Christmas in July has been around possibly since the 1940's. One legend behind its start is that it was started as something to do at camp. Another legend is a pastor brought this tradition from one congregation to another as a way of encouraging the congregation to support global mission earlier in the year rather than at the end of the year. Still a third is to give those in the southern hemisphere a chance to experience Christmas in December.
Regardless of the reason, Christmas in July is perhaps a little quirky (aren't we all in our own ways?) And, I honestly don't know about you, but I'm okay being a little quirky at an unusual time of the year in an already quirky year. 2021 has been a quirky year for various economic, political, and social reasons. Our economy continues to recover from the impacts of so many out of work over the past year, and gradually returning to the work force. Politically, our differences continue to divide us rather than bringing us closer together as a nation. Socially, new variants of the covid virus are making their way across the country.
The continual quirki-ness of the world around us almost seems normal. Until we remember that when Jesus was born, the world had its share of quirks too: a government that required everyone to be enrolled for a census to be taken, meaning those who traveled to hometowns often were met with the reality of no place to stay. A baby boy was born in a manger -- not a hotel or hospital room, nota palace, but a manger. Who first heard this news? Angels announced it to shepherds. Shepherds in turn came to see what had been told them, rejoicing as they left what they saw. Later, wise men, sages, from the east would come to worship.
Perhaps the world isn't so quirky after all. Half birthdays are a reason to celebrate, right?
In the quirkiness of the world around us, we need Christmas in July. We need Christmas in July to remind us Jesus wasn't born for perfection. Instead, Jesus was born to love the quirkiness in each of us, to love the quirkiness in society. In loving the quirkiness of humanity and society, to take on human form, and lose his life.
Yes, we need a little Christmas this year. We need it earlier than December. We need a pause, a break from the quirkiness of the world to remember Jesus lived through quirkiness in his lifetime as well. More importantly, we need a pause to remember Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection continues to offer hope now more than ever. We do well to blend our voices joyfully in song (masked and unmasked) to sing "O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."