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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

December 2013

~The Cradle of Your Grace~ 


“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child
wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
~Luke 2:12

 

Dear Members and Friends,

Happy Advent Season and Merry Christmas to you!  May the beauty of this time work its way into your spirit, visiting you with newborn hopes and unexpected gifts, that no green-and-gold paper could contain, and no velvet ribbon could enclose.  May the Star of Bethlehem send its ancient rays into the furthest reaches of your life, driving out the familiar darkness, and casting the same old world in an all-transforming light.  It’s a light that cannot be understood or explained, but only basked-in…and followed.

               To my daughters, I ask, “What do you want for Christmas?”  To adults, I ask, “What do you long for at Christmas?”  Of course, it hardly matters what answer I get to either question; I probably can’t deliver.  In the case of my daughters, Michelle and her mother have Christmas gifts planned six months in advance.  And in the case of all the grownups, with their equally real yearnings, well, they cherish wishes that I cannot grant them.  But whether you’re a child or an adult, Christmas longings come down to pretty much the same thing.  This is a time of year when we live with our wishes, and many of those are just the old universal yearnings of the human heart.  Christmas teaches us that hope is often born out on the margins of our world, at the darkest frontiers of our souls.  New life usually comes in unanticipated ways, at unforeseen times, but it does indeed come “to all those who have longed for his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8).

               When you were a child, Christmas longing probably limited itself to things like BB guns, and Barbie Dolls, and all those extravagant pastries that only appear in December.  (I still don’t know why kolachis, and pizzelles, and Russian tea cakes couldn’t make just an occasional “cameo appearance” in August.)  You probably learned at Christmastime to love the mystery and the wonder of it all: the music, the ornaments, the candlelight, and the gifts.  In childhood, we’re encouraged to imagine magical things at Christmas.  Grownup Christmases just can’t compete.

               But even as adults, we live with traces of those magic Christmas wishes, and they’re joined by sentimental memories, deep yearnings for the company of long-dead loved ones, not to mention a bit of nostalgic desire to recapture the innocence of those bright-eyed selves we once were.  At Christmas—and indeed all year long—people of every age and place are longing for the same things, whether or not we can name them.  We’re dreaming of a world where things are whole and right, where those we love are always near, where innocence is celebrated, where there’s an abundance of goodwill and good things for everyone.  Aren’t we longing for a life filled with wonder and beauty, a human society ruled by goodness instead of greed and fear?  We are!  It’s the age-old Christmas dream and, dare I say, it’s the Christmas promise.

               Glimmers of that better world sometimes penetrate our lives today.  But until such a world is fully ours, we who “long for its appearing” can take comfort in the promise, and we can throw our lives into its realization.  (I hope the innkeeper of Bethlehem is watching as homeless families again find free meals and lodgings in our church building the week after Christmas!)

               What do you long for at Christmas? “Gentle Arms of Eden” is a folksong / hymn that describes a world that ought to be, then bemoans the one that is, and finally closes with this line: “I will lay my burden down in the cradle of your grace, on the shining beaches of your love, the sea of your embrace.”  I like that term, “the cradle of your grace.”  It makes me think of Christmas.

 

Christ’s Peace,
~Brian