25 DEC 2016Image Not Found.
“Do not be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you -- wonderful, joyous news for all the people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
Kathryn, Bryan and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! We are so blessed. We are planning to spend Christmas with you in worship and later share a meal and open presents with our family. Our three girls and their families are planning on being with us at the parsonage for Christmas. What a joy it is to think about having the 15 of us together to celebrate the gift of life to our world. I am looking forward to experiencing the joy of watching 6 little ones open their Christmas presents. Later in the week, I will be able to spend time with my father and two of my siblings and their families as we continue the celebration. Christmas is such a blessed time. As I reflect upon Christmas, I am reminded about some lessons that I have learned over the years.
One of our granddaughters is still young enough that she might find the wrapping paper more entertaining that what it covers. I remember those Christmas presents where our young child or grandchild became so fascinated with the bright colored wrapping paper that she/he refused to focus on finishing the task of unwrapping the present. Even though the parent tried to lure the child back to the task at hand, the child continued to be distracted by the bright colors and sounds of the wrapping paper. I hope that we do not get so wrapped up with the bright colors and sounds of Christmas that we become so distracted that we fail to experience God’s gift of love and life to us.
I remember one Christmas when we needed to use a large box to contain the present so we could wrap it. That Christmas, our daughters spent more time pulling each other around the house in the box or having me pull them and playing with the box than they did playing with what the box contained. I can remember the box but I cannot remember what was in it. I do remember thinking that I should have just bought my daughter a sturdier box and saved myself a lot of money. I hope that we remember that the purpose of this season is sharing “good news of great joy.” This season is about experiencing joy. Often the greatest joy comes not from those things that cost money but from those inexpensive but priceless things that we share with each other. It is not what we buy that makes as much of a difference as it is the time that we share.
Christmas in 1983 was a time in which our nation east of the Rocky Mountains was experiencing a cold wave. We lived in Enid at the time and for the past week, the temperatures had not risen above freezing. Enid had a low of 3 degrees on Christmas that year. 125 cities broke temperature records and 34 cities hit all-time lows for the month. In many parts of our country, the low temperatures were accompanied with brutal, stinging winds. Christmas was on a Sunday that year. I remember as I was about to go to church that I received a telephone call from my dad telling me that grandpa had died that morning. Grandpa was very special to me. He had been such a great part of my life. He was a man that I loved, admired and respected. Now, he was gone. But instead of mourning the loss of one that I loved, I went to church that morning celebrating. What a great Christmas gift. My grandpa’s suffering was over. My grandpa was finally going to be in the very presence of the one that he loved and had served for many years. He was going home for all eternity. The tears still come when I think of that Christmas. I know that they will come again this year because Christmas is once again on Sunday. But I do not remember what I lost. I remember with fondness the many wonderful experiences that we shared together.
The good news of the season is that Jesus Christ came to earth to offer to all who would receive the gift of eternal life. I am so glad that my grandpa received that gift. I know that this year, there will be many families who will be remembering those whose chair is empty. Some loved ones will have recently died and others we miss will have died years ago. How we wish that we could for just one more day enjoy their presence. I hope that all of us this Christmas remember those precious loved ones that our eyes are no longer able to see but the eyes of our hearts will never forget. As we remember, rejoice. Do not rejoice that they are not with you. Rejoice because the power of death could only remove them from your physical presence but could never remove them from your heart or from the very presence of our loving God! What a gift!
I hope that each of you have a Merry Christmas. Thank you for gracing my life and that of my family. I hope that we will be able to celebrate this gift in worship on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Sunday together. I and my family are blessed because of you. I hope that each of you feel blessed by God as you experience Christmas once again.