Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas. . .

I must admit I've been feeling a little Grinchy lately--all the trappings and trimmings, ribbons and bows, noise and traffic have been getting the best of me. Add to that the fact that the days are short and the dark comes on quickly, and it's made for a bit of a slump--spiritually and emotionally. Plus, I've got a cold--something that inevitably happens just before the BIG DAY every year.

Today, I've been feeling a little better--we're coming down to the wire for the Chrsitmas Eve services at church, and I'm geared up for worship tomorrow. Now I just want to focus on watching the kids have a great holiday, and remembering the true reason for the season--naps.

Yes, I know that the birth of Christ is important, but the ability to take some time off and actually be able to nap is a rare thing indeed. So, I'm looking forward to some R&R time, which should remove some of the Grinchies from me.

Tonight as I lead the congregation in worship, I resolve to remember that it is the message of this night that keeps me (and them) coming back, year after year, to that lousy stable in Bethlehem, to stand in the cold night air and marvel once again at the fact that God has come among us--not as a king or a ruler, but as one who is in need of a diaper change. God is in the helpless, the homeless, the hopeless, the distraught. God is in the Grinches. God is in the ribbons and the bows, the trees and the trimmings. God is in you. God is in me. Thank God for that--it's the only thing that keeps me going, some days.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us, Every One,


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Christmas Letter

This was the letter I published in this month's "Messenger," our church newsletter. I hope that others will find it useful:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

Much has been said in the media over the past few years about the “war on Christmas.” We hear tales of stores banning employees from saying “Merry Christmas” to customers, and schools or other public institutions banning religious references during the Christmas season. I’m writing to you today to say that I’m not bothered by it.

As I’ve said before, our Christian faith is not dependent on the government or popular opinion. In fact, I’m not sure the Christian faith has ever benefited from being tied to the government or those in power. We function best when we remain who we are—a body of believers who go against the grain, and dare to celebrate the fact that God would come to us in human form in order to save us all from violence and sin.

The “war on Christmas” is nothing new. In 1627, the Parliament of England (ruled by Christian Puritans) banned the writing and singing of Christmas carols, declaring them to be part of a “worldly celebration,” and thus unworthy of “a Christian nation.” For this reason, there were very few Christmas carols in existence in English society around the time of the Wesley’s and their folk. Charles Wesley, who wrote over 9,000 hymns and poems in his lifetime, sat down to try and convey the sense of the holiness of Christ’s birth using hymns and carols that would stand the test of time and taste. He managed to write several Christmas hymns, but the one for which he is most remembered is “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled!"

The words of this hymn are sung many times each Christmas, and often, we don’t recall their radical nature unless we pause to look at them clearly. This is not just a sentimental song about a cute baby. This is a hymn to the Almighty God, who came in the form of a baby, because that is the only form in which he could come that would not seem as threatening (at first) as if he were to come in his true form. The world has always been against Christmas—not because of political correctness or civil libertarians—but because the world is never ready to admit that we are all in need of God. The world would have us believe that we can make it on our own. God reminds us that even he needed the help of a mother in order to make it through the first years of his earthly life.

The real threat to Christmas is not in the halls of government or in the malls of this country, but in those who are unwilling to confront God as God truly is—a crying baby needing help; a homeless man who wanders the countryside teaching others to love; a condemned man hanging on a cross to save the whole world from itself. This is the reason for the season. This is why it will always be a Merry Christmas, no matter what the person behind the counter at Wal-Mart says to you.
My wish for you and your family this Christmas season is that you will find the love of Christ being born anew in your midst. From the MacDonald Family to you—Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Your Servant in Christ,

Pastor David