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Whether your big family celebration is Christmas or Christmas Eve, Christmas is only the beginning, the start of a year long celebration of Light, Shalom, the Word.
We had a very special gift this year – Christmas on Sunday. Not only did I get my favorite Christmas Eve candlelight service, I also had a special Christmas morning sermon by Pastor Helen. She presented us with two Christmas stories – the one we all know from Luke but also the story from John.
Christ is the light, a gift of structure, a patterned design sent by God to combat the darkness.
What darkness? Read the headlines. Watch the news. The players may be different, but the concerns are much the same.
Poverty. Unemployment. Fear. Prejudice. War. Depression.
No, you alone can’t over come these things and it would be simplistic for me to suggest that you could. But you can carry the Light of Christ with you into the Darkness. One small candle. Drop a coin in a tin cup. Put a canned good into a barrel. Invite someone to dinner in your home even if you are serving something simple like soup and sandwiches. Write someone a note telling them about the difference they have made in your life.
None of these actions is huge. They are small acts. Tiny candles in a sea of darkness. But think about lighting one small candle each week. One tiny act, 52 times. Now think about the light given off by 52 small candles.
What if I did this? What if you did this? How far would Christ’s light reach into the darkness?
Light in the Darkness,
Joy in our Song,
Help me to see
Your Love and
Your People in need.
Help me to see
the small ways
that I can
do Your work,
speak Your words,
share Your love
with those I encounter
In doing so,
let me bear Your Light and
Your Love to
The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This isn’t the choir I am in, but this hymn was part of our cantata.
And just so you don’t all think that I’ve forgotten about Christmas music this week, here is an awesome flash mob video.
It is not over. Despite the lull that follows the frenzy of flying wrapping paper, the aching bellyful of cookies, and an overload of carols, Christmas does not end on Sunday. It is only the beginning of the season, of the “twelve days of Christmas” that the famous song describes. It encompasses the veneration of the magi at Epiphany, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and (in many faith traditions) the baptism of our Lord. That’s a lot of goings-on for a period most people consider a mere aftermath.
I suppose many of us experience the post-holiday blues. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if we saw Christmas Day as less of an ending and more of a beginning. It is the incarnation of God as flesh that is the true gift of Christmas, and that does not end when the last gift is unwrapped. Imagine the enormity of it! God, greater than any of us can imagine, makes himself small, as small as a baby in a manger, just so He can touch us, live among us, connect with us. “God became flesh because flesh is loveable.” That’s my favorite quote from author Mary Gordon’s The Company of Women. And isn’t it so? God became flesh in the most loveable way: as an infant. We can dislike grown-ups, roll our eyes at bratty toddlers and moody teens, but babies? You have to be made of some pretty stern stuff to hate a baby.
It is the unfolding of the Incarnation that we celebrate post-Christmas Day: The wise men from the East following the star to adore the newborn Savior. (They understood the magnitude of the situation.) The child’s first presentation at the temple. The evasion of Herod’s plans to kill Jesus. (Even then, the powers-that-be wanted Him dead.) All this, reminding us of the tension of God-become-flesh, for flesh is fragile, too.
This fourth week of Advent may be the end of the waiting, but it is not the end of the celebrating. We’ve only just started that. Keep it in mind. And have a blessed and merry Christmas!
One of our youth sang Mary Did You Know yesterday and, while I didn’t manage to record it, you can still enjoy one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.
I know that we’ve posted this one before, but as I was contemplating writing a prayer for peace, one line came into my mind again and again. “Where there is darkness, light.” What better way to celebrate the star of Christmas than with the Prayer of St. Francis?
The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Interestingly enough, the word that was translated as peace doesn’t mean peace in the way that we most often think of it. It isn’t so much an absence of war as it is a sense of completeness and contentment in our relationships. It is a call for connected-ness and community.
Now, I know that everyone reading this is super busy this week. No matter how simple you keep your Christmas celebration, there are simply things that need to be done, chores that can’t be put off and a certain number of things that must be accomplished.
Still, I am going to ask you to add one thing to your list this week. In the name of Christmas Peace, what can you do to connect with someone this week? Perhaps there is someone you’ve not heard from in a while that you considered dropping off your Christmas card list. Or maybe someone hasn’t been feeling well and phone call could cheer him up.
Pick one simple task that you can complete, start to finish, and do so with the sense of Light and Joy and Hope that comes from the Prince of Peace.