December 25, 2107
Luke 2:15-20, The Message (MSG)
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”
Its Christmas morning. Anticipation climaxes. Who will be the first awake and out of bed? What surprises appeared in the night? Will each person like the gift I give? Will the kids sleep just a little longer? Will what I most hoped for come today?
They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Often Christmas morning is the time we relax from the urgency of holiday build-up. In that relaxing, if we intend it, holiday can turn to Holy Day. Will there be space in the day of giving, games, and feasting for remembering that today we celebrate the culmination of prophet’s dreams? Imagine God listening in on the conversational sideline:
Who is awake?
How will they receive the gift I give?
Will what I most hope for happen today?
Each of us responds uniquely to God’s incredible act of self-giving as Jesus enters our lives. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told! Whether you are a quiet “heart treasurer” or someone who lets it lose with a shout, may the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fill your life with grace extending into every day to come. This is the gift. This is the hope. This is to whom we awake.
Jeff and I look forward each year to holiday letters updating us on what’s happening with friends as far away as Kamakura and as close as across town. This year I’m imaging what a Christmas letter about our MidMaine Church family might convey. Of course, with 66 churches, a camp, an economic ministry, a housing organization, and a prep school in the family, the letter could run a little long!
Our letter would remember community bonds built in the aftermath of this year’s windstorm. It would list dozens of MidMaine Churches finding new relationships with their surrounding communities (kids programs, musical events, historical celebrations, clothing give aways, prayer bridges, and FOOD!) It would take us into living rooms where new “class meeting” style groups invite each other into deep discipleship journeys. It would celebrate new pastoral appointments, new staff and volunteers, and pray for those still in process. It would hold in prayer the Magginis family and Salem, Kingfield, and Strong in this first Christmas after Pastor Connie’s death. Our letter would celebrate the birthing of new ministries and the release of old ones in many of our churches. It would wonder at the emergence of new ministry models like East and Center Monmouth’s Shared Lay Ministries Teams and our first visiting sacramental minister. Our letter would remember with gratitude the leaders who have shared their expertise through Resource days. And we would say thank you to the leaders of our new District Leadership Team and Teams for Congregational Development (Rev. Gwyneth Arrison) and Finance (Mr. David McMahon) and hardworking ongoing Teams such as the District Committee on Ministry (Rev. Thom Blackstone), Committee on Lay Servant Ministries (Mrs. Sally Joy), District Events (Rev. Stephen Bascom), Location and Building (Pastor Ned Crockett) and Committee on Superintending (Rev. Jinwoo Chun).
What specific stories would you include in our letter? Post your comments or email them to Karen and we’ll do a New Year’s letter! We’d love to have one for each church or ministry.
Meanwhile, browse this family photo album, too multitudeness to print. And curl up with a cup of tea to take a look at news of our extended family as we remember those who have died this year. A couple of my “beloveds” make this list, Gwen White and Bishop Felton May, a daughter and son of God who truly carried Christ’s light into dark corners of our world.
Any good Christmas letter carries a reminder of why we are who we are and why we do what we do. This weekend, thousands will gather in our spaces to remember the light of God that came into the world over 2,000 years ago and shines brighter each moment that we allow that life and light to live through us. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1: 5. BE our Christmas message this year!
In God’s Grace, Karen
Ask, “are you ready for Christmas,” and our minds will likely go to a to-do list. For a pastor,
it might look something like:
____Gifts bought, wrapped, mailed
(or ordered and shipped)
____worship plans in place
____Church Conference prep
____pastoral visitations on track
____concert/plane/movie tickets in hand
____Appointment update forms
My dear friend Jim was famous for gift shopping at the local 7- 11 after worship on Dec. 24 when he was pastoring churches.
If we could enter scripture’s Christmas stories to ask, “are you ready for Christmas?” what might we hear?” The world was more than ready for God’s intervention of mercy and justice, but perhaps not so ready to recognize the form in which it came. Those best prepared were caught off guard by God’s announcements, but adapted to what God’s plan actually looked like when it/he came in human form.
There’s Joseph, prepared to enter a conventional marriage of his time and able to adapt to startlingly “bad” news because he carried God’s image of strength, mercy, courage, and compassion in him. There’s Mary, prepared to be a normal young wife, blown away by the angel’s message, but able to adapt because she carried God’s image of hope, justice, and wisdom. There’s that over worked innkeeper, prepared to serve paying guests during the holiday rush and able to find one more warm spot for a young family in extremis because he carried the godly gifts of compassion and hospitality. There are shepherd following their rural routines who adapted to the brilliant message they heard by coming into the city and seeing what God was doing there.
No matter how hard we try to prepare for Christmas celebrations, the best parts are often surprises, the anticipated but not foreseen. Let’s get ready by tending to the God gifts in us and others that allow us to recognize, receive and respond to the gifts God is preparing to birth on earth.
In God’s Grace, Karen
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.