This evening I went to two Christmas Eve services. I thought the first one was lame until I attended the second. One had hardly any carols, the other, too many. The first had a band that rearranged everything until there was barely a modicum of the familiar, the second a choir that testified to why some traditions really should fade. Both had sermons when they should have had homilies, both intentionally focused on anything but Luke 2, both delivered by pastors who were the only ones truly enthusiastic about the out-of-the-box message they had chosen to present this year. I heard six points on Jesus as the horn of David, then three about Simeon and Anna. I heard nothing about the shepherds, the angels, the wise men – shockingly, not even about Mary or Joseph. In the latter service, I’m not sure there was even more than a passing mention of Jesus.
It is not surprising then that moment God chose to speak to me was half way home, on a road I travel almost every other day. Tonight, between service one and service two, it began to snow – not the fickle flurries of earlier this season, but true snow. Snow that said ‘Watch me, I am here to stay. Smile. Twirl around. Get ready for something that is finally not fleeting, that you will at last see accumulate, that you will crunch and fluff through by the time you get home.’ In thirty-six Christmas Eves, I can barely remember a handful that were graced with snow.
As I drove home, I was not cynical, but simply sad and unfulfilled, longing for the Christmas Eve service I had anticipated, faced with the knowledge that it would be another year until I could experience that which I was currently mourning. There are no reruns on Christmas Eve. You can’t TiVo it to be replayed at your convenience. December 26th inexorably arrives, whether we have stopped to appreciate December 24th and 25th or not.
By this time it had begun to stick not just to grass but to roads. Everything was covered in a white blanket. As I drove past a field I knew to be dead and brown, I marveled at how a coating of snow suddenly made everything new. And then it hit me, when we are washed as white as snow, the same thing happens to us.
I’ve always looked at “white as snow” as something of a spiritual paint chip. Look, you used to be “Sinful Scarlet,” but we’ve covered it up with a coat of “White As Snow.” But now I think I’ll look at it as though it says, “Your sins have been washed as white as snow, arriving and covering everything dead with a blanket of beauty.” Just as I look at that muddy field and see only sparkling whiteness, so must God look at me and see only Jesus. He hasn’t taken my sin and whitewashed it. He’s placed Himself in front of the eyes of the Father, and His glory shines pure and bright, making everything look holy once more. And that’s cause for a Merry Christmas indeed.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18