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A Christmas Reflection

December 24, 2022
Stella under the Christmas tree

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… Thus begins Howard Thurman’s reflection, “Against the Background of the Year”, in his book The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations (pp. 35-36). Thurman invites us to reflect on life as we approach the ending of this year and the beginning of a new year.

Last Christmas I had no idea that I would test positive for COVID on Boxing Day (December 26th). Last Christmas I had no idea that we would be adopted by our rescue kitty Stella. Last Christmas I had no idea that we would move from Carrollton, Georgia to Orange Beach, Alabama. Last Christmas I had no idea that I would be leading worship as the Interim/Transitional Minister at Swift Presbyterian Church. These are just a few of the moments that stand stark against the background of the year.

To be honest, I have been struggling to “find the Christmas spirit” as life has unfolded during this season of preparation. In the past it has always seemed to find me when candles were lit and the congregation sang “Silent Night” at the end of Christmas Eve worship. In every parish that I have served this has happened and even while serving in the military it managed to find me. Probably my most memorable Christmas Eve services was when I was deployed to Southwest Asia from August 2007 to January 2008. All of us were far from home and our families and loved ones. Yet that night as we heard the Christmas story, lit our candles, and sang “Silent Night” there was a sense of peace in the chapel. As Thurman put it in his poem, I experienced a moment of peace amid the noisy clang of many conflicts within and without… (Christmas Returns, p. 36)

Christmas Eve in Southwest Asia

As I look around the world and our nation today, I see division, battlelines being drawn, warfare, and words being thrown about like weapons of war. It would be easy to fall into despair and lose hope. It would be easy to become cynical and pessimistic.

Yet about the time that the darkness seems to be permanently descending I am reminded that, in the words of Howard Thurman, Christmas returns, as it always does, with its assurance that life is good. (p. 25) Even in the midst of the darkness, the light shines just as the star shone in the night sky on the night of our Savior’s birth. The light shines just as it did on the night when the angel chorus sang to the shepherds; “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14)

Yes, I am reminded that despite all that seems to be wrong with the world that the gift of Jesus’ birth brings hope and peace. As Thomas Merton said in “The Time of the End is the Time of No Room” in his book Raids on the UnspeakableInto this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited… He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst. (p. 72, 73) He is mysteriously present… Christ is with us. And with that presence will come the assurance of His love, grace, peace, and mercy. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b)

At the Christmas Eve service we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. As we break the bread and drink the cup, Christ will be mysteriously present with us. Just as he was present years ago in a chapel in Southwest Asia, he will be with us in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup tonight. Perhaps I need to revisit the words of Howard Thurman and Thomas Merton throughout the year and not just at Christmas. As Merton said, With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. (p. 73) May the peace of Christ be with us always and as Tiny Tim said in Charles Dickens book A Christmas Carol, God bless us everyone.

One Comment
  1. Thank you for this post, and may you and Denise (and Stella!) have a blessed Christmas.

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