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Beyond the Pulpit

December 2018

Greetings; may the grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord be with you all.

It is nearly upon us,… yes, that most wonderful time of the year.  No, I am not speaking about the college football bowl season (though it does add to the joy of the season).  We are rapidly approaching Christmas time.  And that means we start gearing up for all the holiday traditions we hold dear.  Some of our traditions are ancient, some go back generations, and some are new traditions that have just begun.  There are traditions based in our culture, our geography, family and some which are purely personal.  What ever they are, we each have those magical traditions that we hold dear to our hearts and bring back such fond memories.

Among the more magical traditions among my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage is that on Christmas Night water in the wells turn to wine for three minutes.  Of course there is no telling when, and though I have tried, I have yet to discover when.   Another is that cattle talk between eleven and twelve on Christmas Night.  Now I have never witnessed it myself as a child, but my grandfather has reported hearing voices in the barn late at night.

Though I don’t put a great deal of stock in these “magical” elements of Christmas tradition, there has always been something wonderful about this time of the year.  What is it about Christmas time?  It must be something to do with the culture around us.  As much as we are frustrated with the direction the culture outside the Church seems to be taking, people do turn back to the lessons of faith and peace and joy around this time of the year.  Love and miracles and hope do find their way into the minds of most people.  If only it were so all year ‘round.

And this creates for us in the Church, an opportunity.  The secular culture lets down its guard ever so slightly during this time of the year.  The sentimentality of the secular Christmas culture opens a door, the same doors upon which Jesus has been knocking.  Lets consider putting a foot in the door and invite our friends, family, co-workers and strangers to come celebrate with us and learn about the real love at the heart of the Christmas season, the Incarnation.

The Incarnation is the fullest measure of the love we experience at Christmas time.  Yet, even in the church we allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in the birth of Jesus and the story of the Nativity that we sometimes forget that the Incarnation, God becoming “one of us,” is the real miracle and mystery.

In Jesus Christ, God lowered himself to put on our humanity and experience life just as we do.  What an amazing thing to comprehend, to become less for the purpose of serving us.  Our theology teaches us that it was necessary so that we might know the love of God and be saved.  Our Scripture reminds us that God did so, because he “so loved the world.”  And our hearts tell us that it is true.  But what does it mean to you?

The love that caused God to take such a drastic course of action should stir within us the same love for others and in a time of the most exceeding joy!  Truly I believe that this is what lies behind the changes in attitude even among no-believers.  It is the Holy Spirit at work, softening even the most hardened hearts, even if they do not know why.  Indeed, is this not the message of a Christmas Carol, and just about every other Christmas story and movie?

“Joy to the world!”  The birth of the child in Bethlehem, the Lord has come to save us.  Let this thought brighten your life and warm your heart beyond anything else that this wonderful season offers.  Don’t be like the unrepentant Ebenezer Scrooge and keep this gift to yourself, find someone to share it with.  The real miracle, the real “magic” behind the Christmas season is the Incarnation and the love that caused it to happen, do not take it lightly.  “And as Tiny Tim would say, ‘God bless us, everyone.’”

Mitch