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Christmas Eve 2015 – The Gift of Christmas

December 23, 2015

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Yesterday, Denise and I went hiking with her youngest son, Christopher. It was their first time using snowshoes and it was my first time using modern snow shoes. When I was in Boy Scouts back in the Dark Ages, we used what eBay calls Vintage Snowshoes!

old snow shoes

Anyhow, it was a lovely day for hiking with the snow lightly falling. While we were on the trail, all three of us noticed and took pictures of a small tree that we nicknamed a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree! It was small and in the middle of a field of snow. Granted, it didn’t look as puny as the tree that Charlie Brown picked out in the movie, but compared to the rest of the trees surrounding it, it was small.

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How often do we overlook the seemingly small and insignificant moments as we rush through life? If we rush right along, not only do we miss the small trees that hold their own beauty, we also miss opportunities to gaze upon such small things as the clump of snow in the tree pictured above.

This Christmas season began with a wonderful Christmas concert right after Thanksgiving by Brad Fitch (Cowboy Brad Web Site) and some of his friends at the Stanley Hotel.  Brad’s music is always fun and he is known for both his music and for the uncanny vocal and physical resemblance he has to John Denver.

Then on the Monday after the First Sunday in Advent, members and friends of Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies in Estes Park gathered to decorate the sanctuary, narthex, and fellowship hall for Advent/Christmas. The fellowship was wonderful and the church looks wonderful!

PCCR Christmas Decorations Concert

This picture shows our lovely sanctuary decorated for the season. We hosted the Winter Estes Park Music Festival Concert Series at the church in November and early December.

I will be honest, it isn’t always easy to see the splendor of God’s creation laid out before you. Especially if you spend too much time listening to, watching, or reading what passes for news today. And if you spend time diving too deeply into Social Media? Forget it!

That has been my struggle for the past week or so. I haven’t lost the Christmas spirit by any stretch of the imagination and I am still constantly wowed by the beauty of Estes Park and the Rocky Mountains.

It is the eve before Christmas Eve and your Padre is reflecting on life, Scripture, and tomorrow night’s sermon! The first reading of the night is Isaiah 9:2-7. Verse two states: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.”

Wow! That was exactly what I needed to hear! Just as Linus pulls his fellow Peanuts gang back from the chaos of the annual school Christmas pageant by retelling the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2, so Isaiah pulls me back from the chaos that seems to be life, politics, religion, and the world’s insanity.

I can almost hear the Lord saying: “Michael, you are walking in darkness. I get it.  All seems to be chaos, hatred, and fear. Well, remember the words of the angel? Fear not! As Isaiah said: ‘For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ (Isaiah 9:5-6) I’ve got this.”

As I reflect on these verses from Isaiah, I feel my heart begin to lighten. The burden I have been carrying seems to lift. Then I remember the words I read long ago from the poet and theologian Howard Thurman. “Our Father, another Christmas has moved within our ken and our minds linger over many moments that stand stark against the background of the year… Moments that fill our cup of fear to the brim… Moments of decision… Moments of sadness… Moments of awareness (and then I return to the Rocky Mountains in my own mind)… Moments of joy… Moments of peace… Moments of reassurance… Moments of reconciliation… Moments of renewal… Moments of praise and thanksgiving… Our Father, another Christmas has moved within our ken and our minds linger over many moments that stand stark against the background of the year.” (Meditations of the Heart, pp. 149-151)

Did you notice, dear reader, the transition in his writing? Even though I have only captured the highlights, they make the point clear to me. Thurman begins by remembering moments of fear, decision, and sadness. Then there is a transition as he remembers the moments of awareness. Following that, he remembers moments of joy, peace, reassurance, reconciliation, renewal, praise and thanksgiving.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! Even though it is dark right now (we experienced the shortest day of the year, following the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice), the light has come. I feel the light of the Lord in my heart and I know that the light of Christ will shine brightly, no matter how dark the times become. No matter how badly so-called christians (lower case, as always, is intentional) pervert the faith; no matter how many lies are spewed by political candidates or fear-mongers; the light of Christ will shine. As John said in his Gospel (1:5) – “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

That, dear reader, is the gift of Christmas! That gift calls those who follow Christ to live as recipients of a great gift. Here is our charge as we light the candles and sing “Silent Night”. Hear these words of Howard Thurman from his poem, “The Work of Christmas” found in his book, The Mood of Christmas:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost,

to heal the broken,

to feed the hungry,

to release the prisoner,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among the people,

to make music in the heart.

 

Will you join me in not simply accepting the gift of Christmas, but allowing it to transform our lives? Will you join me in doing the work of Christmas? Lord knows the world today needs those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do that work with Christ as our guide.

One Comment
  1. Very good blog Padre.

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