“For unto you is born in the City of David … a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
And each and every year since I was ten years old, I have heard the voice of the cartoon image named Linus as he walks off the stage in a national setting and then looks at the cartoon image of Charlie Brown and says, “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.” Not the wrapped packages under our trees, not a mythical red-nosed reindeer leading other flying reindeer to every house in the world in the course of one night, not trying to get the best gifts of the year into the hands of family and friends … but celebrating Jesus Christ, God’s loving gift of a Savior for every human being.
If you have been in the parsonage, you will have noticed that my “Christmas” tree never goes away. And if you turned around from the Christmas tree you would see not one but two “crèche” scenes featuring the characters from Charlie Brown’s Christmas prominently displayed. The tree is my celebration of the season, but the manger scenes are an ongoing reminder of what Christmas and life are all about … God’s love, God’s peace, and God’s rescue.
This very difficult year is closing out soon. Thanksgiving will be different in our home … Christmas will be difficult in our home, but the difference and difficulty does not lessen our connection to God’s love. I have closed out other years and have always been aware that we are called to live and to be the light of that Christmas star to those we come in contact with.
And today, as October closes out and I write this article, I am sitting at my dining room table looking at my Christmas tree to my left and one of the Charlie Brown Christmas crèches to my right, singing the John Lennon song, ‘So This Is Christmas.’ “So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun … And so, this is Christmas … the world is so wrong.”
Yes, Lennon’s words in the song caused me to stop because perhaps I have missed that phrase before. He also sings, “Let’s stop all the fight” in this song first released in 1971. The song continues with a look ahead … “And a happy New Year, let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.”
John (the one from the Bible, not the singer) writes, “There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear.” A God message focused on our relationship with God.
And this year Christmas Eve is on a Sunday … Wonder how many people will skip church in the morning to attend afternoon and evening services when Silent Night is featured? Wonder how many people will skip traditional Christmas Eve services by saying they went to church in the morning and two worship services are just too much for their family? Wonder how many churches will be emptier than in years past? Wonder how much fear and fight will be consuming all too many people rather than allowing God’s love to take control of time, presence, and experience in worship?
All I can do is encourage and invite you to make worshiping God a priority this Christmas season. I can ask to consider whether your children will be more blessed through a bonus hour or two in church or by whatever is on the television screen on December 24th. It is your choice to make.
Another year approaches … mystery abounds … but without God’s delivery of a child to a homeless couple in Bethlehem who soon would be illegal immigrants in Egypt, there would be no shiny wrapped presents under our trees. If we erased the history of the angels’ call to the worn-down hard-working shepherds in the field that night … shepherds who made their way to a barn stall to gaze upon the Son of God … well, we’d not be rescued.
The birth of Jesus … the delivery of God’s loving gift … should be what Christmas is all about for all of us. Time is fleeting, I know all too well. So is this the year Christmas regains its priority? The birth of a Savior, THAT IS WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT … Hoping to see you, some family members, and perhaps some of your friends in church with us on Christmas Eve 2023!