December 2016 – The spirit of Christmas

It can sometimes take awhile for me to get into the true spirit of Christmas, especially in the early days of Advent… Which may perhaps be a bit like how Zechariah, father of John the Baptist felt, after the Angel Gabriel scolded  him for doubting the divine message and caused him to be mute, unable to speak, for nine months…

My occasional bouts of seasonally-affected-disorderliness hardly compare with those of Zechariah – let alone those of Joseph, step-father of Jesus. I can hardly imagine what he must have felt when he first learned his fiancée was expecting a child. Even after God convinced him through a dream-vision-angel-appearance that Mary’s pregnancy was entirely through the Holy Spirit and it was indeed right to marry her… Still, I’d be surprised if Joseph felt much like having a merry Christmas…at least not till the holy child was born…

My struggles to be ready for this season are really very mild, compared with those of our biblical role models of faith. Which I realize again, almost as soon as I begin re-reading the opening chapters of the gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John, and many passages in Isaiah that foretell the Messiah to come… The gospels and the prophets bid us to be ever-ready for the Savior’s birth… While also giving us permission to enter into the season of new-birth starting from whatever frame of heart and mind we may inhabit…

Still it was hard for me to start writing this article, even up against a final newsletter deadline… Till our daughter came downstairs, hugged me several times, sat down at the piano, and began playing It Came upon the Midnight Clear… She then played once through Joy to the World… and asked me to sing along on a verse of Silent Night…Then she picked up a well-worn Christmas cantata songbook that dates back to the Plainfield Vermont Methodist choir’s singing of this cantata when Rohi was three. Rohi has held on to that songbook ever since, bringing it out again every year at Christmastime…

Reminding me that I love the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany stories… I love to hear them come alive again in the silence of early morning reading and prayer times… But there’s something in this story of Jesus coming to birth that cries out for human companionship…

This is, after all, the story of the Incarnation of our Lord. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was, in the beginning, with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life; and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…. And the Word became flesh, and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth…”

The story of Jesus, Son of God and capital W Word of God, who has become flesh and lived among us is the story of God entering into human life – experiencing all the pain, sorrow, suffering, struggles, and difficulties of human life… The story of God entering fully into human life – bringing the love, the joy, the truth, the grace and peace of God’s heavenly kingdom into this world in human flesh…

I began to feel the Christmas spirit this year on Thanksgiving Day at our Cataumet Church Community Dinner… People welcoming each other, warmly and well; no one remained a stranger long… The spirit of Christmas began awakening in me… I noticed four members taking a Thanksgiving take-out dinner to another member in rehab at JML. I heard later how much that meant to our member who couldn’t be with us in person… Again, the spirit of Christmas was at work… When I visited our member a few days later, two of her other friends were also there visiting, and when we prayed the physical therapist joined hands in prayer with us… Again, the spirit of Christmas.

At our Church Annual Meeting earlier this week here were many people doing the work of the church, quietly, without being asked. Several members volunteered to fill unfilled positions. Challenges were acknowledged honestly, but nobody complained… The spirit of Christmas is alive among us.

The spirit of Christmas often takes some time for me to re-discover – and even when I get there, I still always need to work at being mindful of God’s blessings. The world tugs and pulls in a thousand other directions… But when I keep my eyes, ears, heart and mind on Jesus, he reminds me – the same love which God brought to birth in human form in Jesus Christ now lives in us through the Holy Spirit…

And it is our joy to share God’s love with one another and with all… This is the true Spirit of Christmas, the Spirit in which we seek to live every day…

The love and joy of God be with you, in this season and always,

Pastor Tim