Dear friends in Christ,
This Christmas will be like no other in recent memory. There will be no packed churches, no Christmas carols belted out with brass and choirs, no acres of poinsettias in the chancel, and not even any large family gatherings.
It would be understandable if we focused on our losses this year. Our losses are considerable, both in the thousands and thousands of people who have died in the pandemic and in the loss of familiar habits and rituals.
For Christians there is always Good News, even amidst our struggles and suffering. We know that evil is defeated on the cross, and we know that death is vanquished in the empty tomb. And then there is Christmas.
Some 2,000 years ago, the world suffered mightily under the yoke of oppressors. God’s people yearned for deliverance, ached for a word of hope. That hope came into the world in Bethlehem, an insignificant town in the middle of nowhere, at least according to the powers-that-be. God’s deliverance was born into our world in a birth that was precisely as beautiful and messy as any other.
Of course, not everything was normal about this birth. Sure, it was a human mother giving birth to a human son. But we know it was Mary the God-bearer bringing Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, into the world.
An angel proclaimed glad tidings. The host of heaven praised God. Shepherds hastened to meet their savior.
Nothing can change that story, for that story has changed the world. We would do well to be like those shepherds. Let us hasten to welcome Jesus into our world and into our very lives. And then let us glorify and praise God, for our world yearns for deliverance and aches in hope.
Perhaps with all the habits and rituals pared away, we can find the heart of the Gospel message of Christmas. God never abandons us and always finds us in our struggles. God-among-us is still very much our savior.
May we all, like Mary, treasure the Good News. And may we, like the shepherds, hasten to meet Jesus and proclaim his love to the world. I wish you a blessed Christmas.
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