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December 22, 2021, 8:33 AM

Dear Friends,

            I am guessing that for most parents (even grandparents) there have been those Christmas Eves, or Christmas Eve Eves, where we have subjected ourselves to labor-intensive Christmas presents for our kids or grandkids. This is one such Christmas for Dani and me as we have bought a swing-set kit for our grandson. Including nuts and bolts, endcaps, and larger pieces there are close to 450 parts. Fortunately, we are sharing the other monumental task of preparing the Christmas meal for the family gathering. We submit ourselves to these self-flagellating practices in hope of seeing the joy and excitement on their little faces come Christmas morning. Is it any wonder God did not include us in the original planning for Jesus’ birth?!

            We make events like Christ’s birth complicated. Over the years we have added-- piece by piece--traditions and rituals which have so encrusted the original story and event, that we are disappointed when something is missing or just a bit off. There are Advent candles, Advent Wreaths, nativity sets, tinsel, Christmas trees and decorations, Santa apparel, reindeers and sleighs, Christmas Carols in October, Christmas sales from cars to toys, and Christmas movies with no mention of Jesus. We have created so many things to blur our vision and heart from this ancient story of Divine Love.

            While this may sound a bit “Bah Humbugish,” I am not intending it so. Christ’s birth is about promises fulfilled and enduring faithfulness. Neither of those originating from people, but from God. People were spectators at the beginning, and then -- through Jesus’ adult ministry -- were invited to become participants. Magi, shepherds, and angels were the first heralds of Jesus birth, and a little later Simeon and Anna. The Magi invited themselves. They came out of their honor and respect for what the heavens foretold. The angels invited the shepherds, perhaps because they were the only ones willing to listen to what the angels had to say. Simeon and Anna were both waiting in the Temple to have a God-promise fulfilled. God enacted the world’s transformation in a single birth: quietly, mostly hidden from the world. And now we have become the heralds.

            Like Magi, Angels and Shepherds, Simeon, and Anna, we celebrate and share our praise because we know who we have received. Their God-promises fulfilled have become ours and like them we have praises to sing! Like them we have clarity about what God has done and is doing in the world today! We have praises and worship to share! We celebrate his birth because we know of his ministry, death, and resurrection! We have praises to be sung!!

            All the rest, the distractions – trees and tinsel, commercials, the swing-sets and bicycles, pale in comparison to the original gift given by God. Perhaps in that day, the distractions had also gotten so great that the people were losing sight of how much God really loved them, too. We have praises to be sung!! I hope we can do that together this Christmas Eve the 24th and again on Sunday the 26th.

In Christ’s service together wherever He leads,