Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmastide Continues

This week at our church, we will linger in the land of Christmas a bit longer.  We will have just one service, where we will hear the Christmas cantata again.  It's a more participatory cantata this year than in the past, so I don't mind.   It will likely be a smaller service, in terms of attendance.  My spouse and I will stay to count the money, which should be easier with the smaller attendance, plus we won't have to separate all the monetary gifts:  this one for the pastor, this one for the staff, this envelope for poinsettias, that one for food baskets, on and on.  Today, it all goes into the general fund.

I would encourage us not to leave Christmas behind too quickly. Many of us have had busy Decembers. We can leave our Christmas trees up for a few more days (twelve, even, until Jan. 6, Epiphany) to enjoy the vision we haven't had a chance to take in during our busy Advent. We can eat one last Christmas cookie, while we reflect on the past year, and plan for the year to come. We can pray for the patience of Simeon, for the wisdom of Anna, for the courage of Mary and Elizabeth and Joseph, who said yes to God's plan. We can pray that we have the boldness of John the Baptist, who declared the Good News.

We can pray for the strength to evolve into people of hope, people who watch and wait, confident in the knowledge that God fulfills all promises.

But let us not rest too long in the land of Christmas.  As our pastor reminded us a few years ago, if we leave Jesus as the baby in the manger, we've missed the point.

I have added to that thought as we moved through the liturgical year.  If we leave the savior on the cross, we've missed the point too.  But even the Easter story is only part of the larger point.

A thread runs through all these Good News stories.  Christmas reminds us that God breaks through into our regular lives in amazing ways.  The rest of the stories in the Gospels show us God doing just that.   God came to be with us, to experience human life in all the ways that we experience it--and that includes rejection and death.

The story of Jesus reminds us that death doesn't have the final answer.  Some Christians have decided that Jesus came to earth so that we can get a ticket to Heaven.  But that approach misses an important point too.

God wants to walk beside us not so that we'll get a ticket to Heaven.  God wants to walk with us so that we can be part of the redemption of creation.  Artists everywhere know that when we create together, we're likely to go in directions we wouldn't have anticipated.

God knows it too.

Let this be the year that we discover this great joy.  Let us be the people who have lived in a dark valley but who have seen a great light.  Let us live light-filled lives.

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