Dear friends in Christ,
We’re just a few days away from Christmas. Last year’s Christmas was bizarre, a time when we were unable to gather for worship. There were no churches full of worshipers singing their praises of the Christ child.
Christmas this year is perhaps even more strange. In many churches, worshipers will raise the rafters with glorious praise even as we enter another peak in the pandemic. We will hear the angels’ cry of peace on earth, even as division and strife grow daily.
Perhaps we’ve never needed the Christmas message more than in this moment.
You wouldn’t be alone in asking, how can we be joyful at a time like this? Perhaps we do well to recall the original Christmas story. Two thousand years ago, during a time of oppression and military occupation, in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of what looked like a very ordinary set of people, God acted decisively. The enfleshed Word of God was born.
Everything about the Christmas story tells us that God gets right into the thick of it with us. Our God is not distant and uncaring. Our God sides with the ordinary and the outcasts. Our God values mercy, hope, justice, and peace.
A couple of details in the Christmas story stand out for me this year. God sent an angel to bear glad tidings to shepherds. Shepherds! People of low status were among the first to hear the Good News of Christ’s birth, and they went quickly to see God-with-us. And after their encounter with Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, the shepherds went back to their fields. As the Gospel says, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”
The shepherds are models for us all. They hear, they respond, they see, and they proclaim.
At Christmastime, as we encounter afresh the wonder of Jesus Christ’s birth, I hope we too can glorify and praise God. Perhaps you and I can be bearers of grace and mercy in a world that sometimes seems graceless and merciless.
Jesus Christ is Perfect Love incarnate, showing us how much God loves each one of us. That is Good News worth proclaiming.