Christmas is an interesting time of year. Somehow the Christmas story in one version or another seems to bring down barriers. Many faiths and religions have a light bringing celebration in December: Hannukah, Kwanza, and others are celebrated in this darkest time of the year. Christmas is celebrated across all the Christian churches both Protestant and Catholic—they share the same story and many of the same hymns. Christmas is one time that the veil thins between the secular world and the Christian tradition as shopping malls and streets are filled with lights, sparkling trees, and familiar music. Children’s eyes light up with delight as the old story is told again and the rest of us are invited to join in the wonder of a God who would come to earth as a peasant baby. We hear the words of Mary’s Song as she celebrates a Messiah who will turn the world order upside down. People everywhere, except perhaps in the mall parking lot, seem happier, more relaxed, and quite caught up in the whirl of preparations and anticipation.
The Christmas season also is a big time for charities that serve the community. Christmas hampers are filled and delivered to our poorer neighbors. The entire years worth of knitting appears on mitten trees to be donated to shelters and schools for those whose hands, necks, and heads are cold this winter. Visits are made more frequently to those who are lonely and in need of companionship. Carolers go off to sing at old folks homes and other places where faces need brightening. The people we see as poor, displaced, lonely, hungry, homeless, or lost all catch our attention in new ways. We wonder what we can do to help—how we can lighten their load a bit. Donations rise for the food bank. People make a point of going to help hand out Christmas dinner at the local mission. All around we just seem more aware of the needs, big or small, of the people around us and want to bring smiles to tired faces, ease the heaviness of struggling lives, and put food in front of those who might otherwise go without. It is truly an awesome time—a time when we all experience the double-edged blessing of giving and our hearts are open to see ways we can connect to the rest of the human race.
This is the light of Christmas. The love, hope, joy, and peace we sing about in services, in institutions, in shopping malls, and even in elevators is a worldwide gift. We actively seek ways to reach out, touch lives, and make a difference. The wondering about what gift might best serve this person or that one becomes a lens through which we encounter everyone in our lives. It is a warm and wonderful time of year. One that lights our hearts with a new awareness of our neighbors, of our traditions, of our sacred stories, and of the meaning all these things bring to our lives. This is the light in the darkness, the light that came that the world could not put out. In the Christian tradition, Jesus came as the long-anticipated Jewish messiah who was expected to usher in a new reign of peace, justice, equality, and unity in the people of the world. We BECOME the hands and feet of the Christmas child reaching out to those in shadows. At Christmas time we experience light which pushes back the darkness yet again with the passing of the longest night. The sun rises on the day after, daylight comes, and the world awakens. We rise, individually and collectively, to focus on the good, the right, and the beautiful and to see what we can do to be part of seeing it come to pass.
This is the light of Christmas. The light of a star that pushed back the darkness of a stable where a young peasant mother rocks the baby that she believes will change everything. This is the light which we, as followers of that baby become teacher, healer, and friend, are called to bring with us into the world all the time. Not just at Christmas, though it is easier somehow at this time of year, but all through the other eleven months. Join us this New Year at Lakeview as we explore inspired living and ask how renewed faith and commitment to Christ can make this same kind of heart opening, awe-inspiring difference to us and the people we encounter all through the coming year.
Merry Christmas to all and the happiest of New Years! May God bless each and every one of you and all you know and love!