I have enjoyed digging into the nativity stories found in Matthew and Luke this year for our mini-Bible study of Jesus’ birth narratives. While neither Mark nor John includes the wonderful details of Jesus’ birth, there is something very special about these verses. Every time I hear the words, “In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled…” it evokes Christmas eve candlelight services, the warm fellowship of family and friends, and the joy of the Christmas season.
It’s true Christmas has been commercialized and in some ways hijacked by secular culture. But that doesn’t take away from the awesome reality of God’s coming among us as a little baby, the child of peasants. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Christmas has, and always will be, best celebrated in the place where the stories are told and retold every year. How wonderful to be a part of a community of faith that keeps the stories of Jesus alive.
The story of Jesus’ birth evokes for me the voices and faces of my own childhood experiences. I remember taking part in Christmas pageants, singing in children’s choirs, and watching as tears streamed down the faces of adults I knew and loved on Christmas Eve as we sang Silent Night by candlelight.
Even for those who never heard the Christmas until adulthood, the wonder and joy of the season are still accessible. One simply needs to do what our Advent preparation tells us to do – wait and watch quietly for the coming of the King. In a season filled with frantic activity, the church is where we come to be reminded what all of the celebration is about. The church is the one place where all signs point to Bethlehem.
May you have blessed Christmas! May your heart be open to the simple, but extravagant, gift of God’s self in the birth of a newborn child. I am so thankful to be your pastor and to be part of the ongoing ministry of Central Christian Church (180 Christmases and counting). In the words of Dicken’s Tiny Tim – God bless us, everyone!