We all know what Christmas is “supposed” to look like, right? We’re surrounded by the Currier and Ives images of Christmas, the Thomas Kinkade scenes of snowy countryside and greenery. But if we’re honest, that’s just what we in northern North America think of Christmas–it doesn’t describe Christmas in Hawaii, let alone other parts of the world.
If we can admit of a different perspective on Christmas, then perhaps we can consider what Christmas might have looked like from heaven’s side–and whether that perspective is captured in Revelation 12. That was the challenge I posed in this weekend’s sermon, “Love’s Beachhead,” which was the first one that Sydenstricker UMC began live-streaming. Here is the link to our livestreaming page; for my service this weekend, I suggest you view the 8:30 service. You can start from the beginning and join in the worship, or skip to 33:10 where Don begins reading the scripture lesson. Either way, please let me know what you think–and please bookmark this page to find our livestreams each week!
It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. The tree is finally decorated, there’s a fire roaring away, and apart from tidying up in the rec room a bit, there’s not a ton that has to be done today. I can sit here in the family room, enjoy the season and the warmth of the fireplace, and just…be, in the moment. (Well, and get a little writing done…)
How unlike my January this moment is!
At my still-day-job in Federal budgeting, we now have a w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l gift (insert eye roll) of having to roll out the 2021 President’s Budget AND report to Congress on our spending plan for the just-enacted 2020 budget, both in early February. Two major, time-consuming, intense processes that normally would be different times are now stacked on top of each other. There will be lots of late nights throughout January as we try to get everything done, done well, and done on time. Plus, at church, I am taking over responsibility for worship preparations each week: having people assigned to the right roles, communicating to ushers and communion assistants, etc. I know enough to know I don’t know everything, and I’m already afraid of what ball will be dropped in the juggling. Oh, and starting a new Sunday School class, and preparing for a Lent evening class on prayer.
Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a)
I know I need times like this. I know I need recharging and renewal, before taking on what both my God and my job have in store for me in 2020. I know I need Christmas, and to have the faith of a Mary or a Joseph, to see what’s coming and to surrender entirely to God’s will.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38a)
In many ways, 2019 felt like the year of “Follow me.” And I did. As 2020 gets ready to start, with the whirlwind that January will represent, I wonder if God’s message to me for 2020 might be, “Trust me.” I confess I still have trouble with that one; Lord, may I have the strength to trust as I did to take those first steps to following you. Just as a young couple in Judea did two millennia ago, I must trust that what God has in store for me is exactly what God’s plan needs for me to experience, to become who he intends me to be. And that’s a Christmas gift that doesn’t fit under the tree, but rather, comes in these quiet moments on lazy Sunday afternoons.
The year is winding down…but the church year is just starting, and with it, the promise of the coming of Jesus, both at Christmas and in his final glory. What I find so refreshing and recharging is that promise: the hope we have as Christians that Jesus will come again, and God’s plan for humanity will be realized, when we can finally live as his people once again.