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An Invitation to a Life of Worship

December 24, 2019

We met this fellow on our way back from a trip to Fort Collins. He appeared to be injured and was limping along. As I took pictures and talked to him, I lifted a prayer for protection and healing. On Christmas Eve, may we pray not just for ourselves but also for people who have little to celebrate. May gifts of love in action be given by all.

Christmas has come again as Howard Thurman writes: Christmas returns, as it always does, with its assurance that life is good. I try to keep this thought ever before me as we enter into this season. Sometimes I am more successful than other times though…

We can easily get lost in the chaos that is commercialized Christmas. Sometimes family dynamics can rise up in the midst of the stress and strain of attempting to “make” the perfect Christmas celebration. It is then that we need to step back and allow the wonder to flow over us. We cannot “make” it happen… we must open our hearts to allow it to happen.

As I attempt to step back in the few hours before our Christmas Eve worship service, I find my mind wandering back to the hillsides outside of Bethlehem where shepherds were watching over their flocks by night.

I think of these humble herdsmen whom most of the village would look down upon as unclean, rough, and uncouth. They weren’t the image we have built up based on the Shepherd King of Israel. They were an essential yet invisible part of the economy of the time.

The angels didn’t appear to the high and mighty of society or the religious elite. In the same way that Jesus was born in an ordinary home, the message came first to the common folks. A close study of the Greek and the first century culture reveals that the word often translated as Inn is rather a guest room. The house would have been packed with relatives who had travelled to their ancestral home for the census. The manger was in the home since common folks brought their animals in at night and they all shared a common area divided only by a small wall with a manger built into it for the animals to eat.

Jesus was born into a family who had come to follow the orders of the Empire. The census was not for their benefit but was rather for the Empire to build their tax base. As much as I love many of the Nativity scenes painted and sculpted, the ordinary is actually more beautiful to me.

So it was appropriate that the Angels would come to the common shepherd instead of to the elite. Of course the shepherd were shocked to say the least. Once they got over their shock, the excitement of the news and the fact that they were bearers of that news hit them! Of course they ran into town to see what had been told to them by the Angels.

What the shepherd saw that night transformed them. They left the baby and his parents with joy-filled hearts. They left worshipping and glorifying God. Their lives had indeed been transformed!

Today we often go through the motions of Christmas Eve as we do other holy days and seasons of the year. We know the story and it can become commonplace for us. We forget the wonder and the awe. We fail to allow this holy mystery to transform us.

This story calls us into the possibility for transformation. It calls us away from the glitter and glitz of what we have made of this holiday. It calls us away from the high expectations we cannot meet. It calls us to open our hearts to the transformative love of God.

To close, I want to share this poem of Thurman’s:

Christmas Is the Season of the Heart.

The Time of forgiveness for injuries past,

The Sacrament of sharing without balancing the deed,

The Moment of remembrance of graces forgotten,

The Poem of joy making light the spirit,

The Sense of renewal restoring the soul,

The Day of thanksgiving for the goodness of God.

CHRISTMAS IS THE SEAON OF THE HEART.

May you find the joy and wonder of this night anew, dear reader.

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