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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

December 2012

 

~Peace, Goodwill~


 

Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill among people.” 

~Luke 2:13, 14          

 

Dear Members and Friends,

Oh, they had started off with such noble ideals.  Christmas for Brad and Kim was going to be a simple affair.  They wanted to keep the spirit of the season with a small Advent wreath in their dining room and some tasteful little sprigs of holly on the windowsills.  They had collected some ground pine to make a wreath for the front door, too.  Their Christmas tree was going to be a fragrant little balsam fir, decorated with old-fashioned strings of popcorn, and snowflakes, and paper angels.  No colored lights, no tinsel, or flashy ornaments, and especially none of those silvery threads of “icicles” that you can drape on the tree (and find tangled up in the rotor of the vacuum cleaner well into February).  Brad and Kim resisted the temptation to put a light-up-life-sized Frosty the Snowman in the front yard.  No plastic reindeer and sleigh on the roof, either.  And what about Santa?  Well, that was a tough call.  They wanted their twins to experience the wonder and the mystery of believing in Santa, but they also wanted to avoid the disappointment that inevitably follows.  And so, they never really volunteered much information about the Jolly Elf.  They “neither confirmed nor denied” any rumors.

No, Brad and Kim wanted their children’s memories of Christmas to be about the pageant at church, the ancient account of angels and shepherds, the stirring old carols of peace on earth, the candlelight, the roasted turkey, the togetherness.  They wanted the gifts to be useful things and few in number, things like socks, and gloves, and maybe just the occasional toy.  In fact, they’d even considered the possibility of drawing names and doing a family gift exchange at $20 per person.  That way, they thought, Christmas would be in keeping with their values of simplicity and moderation. The holiday wouldn’t undermine itself by turning the nativity of Christ into a grab-fest.  It was a beautiful plan for a pure and non-materialistic Christmas.

But then…there was grandma.  On Christmas Eve at Kim’s mother’s house, the young couple grinned at each other sadly across a room knee deep in crumpled wrapping paper.  Grandma had easily spent $500 on each kid.  And she bought loud gadgets, too: Leapsters, and iPods, and Wiis.  Grandpa had pretended to slip out to buy some eggnog, and he’d returned in a Santa costume, laden with all the many gifts.  “Ho-ho-ho!” he cried.  There were blue and white lights blinking on a huge, artificial tree.  The Chipmunks crooned “Jingle Bells” on the stereo.  Grandma had survived the lean Christmases of yesteryear.  She knew all too well about waking up on Christmas morning only to discover school pencils and undergarments in the stocking.  Her grandchildren were going to have a proper Christmas!  Brad and Kim didn’t love it, but they loved her, and so they took it all in stride.  After all, aren’t people more important than ideals?

One of the hardest things about being in relationship with other people is accepting their sometimes-awkward expressions of love for us.  At times they convey their affection in ways that we find uncomfortable, or showy, or even downright tasteless.  People can embarrass us with lavish displays, or bumbling words, or unexpected gestures.  They might even give us gifts that we don’t want or know what to do with.  The secret is to accept all these things with grace, and smile at the heart that gives them.  Consider!  After all these centuries, humankind still isn’t quite sure what to do with God’s extravagant self-expression in the person of Jesus.  I think a good place to start is to smile, and embrace the “peace and goodwill” of the Giver.

Merry Christmas,

~Brian