Pastor Mark’s eNote: Unwrapping the Christmas Gift

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        The day draws nigh.
        One more Sunday, one more candle, one more week of getting ourselves ready for it all. Then, Christmas.
        In the church, we’ve taken a four-week run at it, pondering each week some aspect of the baby-sized message big enough to fill the world. We have picked up the gift that is Christmas and rattled it a bit and held it up to the light, looking at it from various angles.
        For me, the mystery and joy of it all is captured in a single word, “Emmanuel,” God with us.
        That baby crying in the manger brings divine healing, truth and grace. When he finds his voice, he will speak judgment and mercy to sinners and saints alike; his embrace will shatter assumptions and prejudices; his touch will offer life where there is death; he will speak forgiveness when all is lost and model for us a way of life that can build a new community of grace and compassion. But on December 25, it is enough that he simply is.
        On Christmas morning, a baby is held in a mother’s arms, and the distance from earth to heaven is no more. That baby is God with us, and in him human life is embraced in divine love. In the joys and sorrow that life brings—God with us. In the bland balance of humdrum routine—God with us. Right here and right now—God with us.
        We have one more week to get ready, one more week of gift-pondering. This Sunday we will hold the gift in the light of song and see what we hear/see. Our Christmas Choir and orchestra will present portions of Handel’s “Messiah,” glorious and beautiful. We will hear from the scriptures God’s promise and the story of Christ’s birth, and I will bring a brief message, rattling the gift one more time.
        Then, of course, comes Christmas Eve. You can see all of the services we are offering here: www.hmumc.org/christmas.
        The 11:00 services, a.m. and p.m., also include Holy Communion, with the 11 a.m. service closing with a pageant open to every child (costumes provided). The 5 p.m. service is a new one, a modern service in a style similar to our 9:15 service, with sermon by Jason Mincey and music by our band and strings. I’ll be preaching at the other services, except for 3 p.m., which is a high-energy interactive service for families and children. All of our services will close with candle-lighting.
        So, in other words, there’s a service for you on Christmas Eve.
        BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.
        Christmas day this year is a Sunday, and we will have one service at 11 a.m. We’re having the service because it’s Sunday, and we have church on Sunday (wacky idea, that), but it also provides us one more opportunity to enjoy the gift of the day and the message that transforms our lives (And, face it, by 11:00 on Sunday morning you might be ready to get out of the house for a little while). Come comfortably. Music will be provided by our choir, with special offerings from Jonathan Nease and Mark and Donna Locke. Shawna Vincent will lead a special moment for children, and I will bring the message for the morning. We will close our morning with an opportunity for family prayer at the chancel rail.
        I know. We don’t usually go to church on Christmas morning, and other large churches in our community will not have church at all that day, but I’ve always found these Christmas Sundays special. It’s like a family gathering, but without awkward political discussions. It’s a chance to catch our breath and dive together once more into the joy that is Christmas. In my book, you can’t have too much Christmas joy. Since some churches won’t be meeting Sunday, invite your neighbors. Who knows? We could have THOUSANDS here (OK, maybe I’m being a bit optimistic). But this I know: Whoever is here, we will rejoice, because it’s Christmas, and we’ll be together.

 

                                                                                                                                  In Christ,
                                                                                                                                  Rev. Mark Westmoreland
Author: Mark Westmoreland

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