What is the message of Christmas?


What is the message of Christmas?

In 1968 Simon and Garfunkel released a song entitled “7 O’clock News/Silent Night”.  As they were singing “Silent Night”, the news was broadcast in the background, slowly getting louder and eventually became louder than the song.  I don’t know if either Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel commented on the song, but it was clear that the message of Christ’s birth was getting drown out by the news of the world.

Along the same vein, someone might record the song “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  But the message of Christmas that we might hear will be a similar one, a message of the trouble, the violence, the hatred, the greed and commercialism that seems to dominate the world today.  And what I fear is that for many people, if they hear the message of Christmas at all, this will be the message of Christmas.

Some people, of course, do not hear the message of Christmas but, then again, they are not listening for it.  They have their own faith traditions and stories and Christmas is not a part of that story.  And it would be wrong for those who hear the message of Christmas to expect others to listen, for respect for all people was and should still be part of the message of Christmas.

To hear the message of Christmas, you must, at some point, believe in Christ.  There are those who don’t hear the message because they don’t believe in God, no matter what the faith story may be.  For these individuals, Christmas is merely another name for Saturnalia, a pagan festival at the time of the winter solstice, which the early church co-opted in the name of Christ.

If one studies the history of the early church and the history of Christmas, we know that the story of Christmas did not occur in the darkness of the winter solstice but more likely in the early Spring.  The selection of the time of the winter solstice may have been to distract many people from other celebrations but it was also just as important to not distract from Easter (which is my hypothesis).

But many of those who deny the existence of any god still celebrate Christmas but what message are they hearing?  But while they may not believe in God, Christmas, or what it truly means, they do, I believe, get upset when they do not get their fair share of the presents given out.  Some of these individuals have created their own quasi-Christmas to justify the need for presents, gifts and celebration.  This is a one-day message, a message that has no meaning tomorrow or the day after; there will a new message to take its place.

But the message of Christmas was never about the presents one receives or a measure of one’s worth in terms of presents received.  It is about understanding why presents were given to the baby Jesus in the first place and what those presents foretold for Jesus’ life and later mission to us.

So, what is the message of Christmas?  Sadly, many people today who proclaim themselves to be Christian cannot tell you what that message is.  The message they hear in church is a combination of many distinctly different messages, designed by individuals who either do not want others to learn or do not want to learn themselves.

The message of Christmas given by so many is one that speaks highly of material gain and personal power.

It is a message of convenience, it is a message that echoes the words of Gordon Gecko, that “greed is good”.  It is a message that says Christ’s birth is a triumph of rich over poor and power over weakness.  It is a message that proclaims exclusiveness and hatred, and that only certain people are entitled to the riches and the power that comes from following Christ.  It is a message that say one must and can only say “Merry Christmas” during this season of many holidays and celebrations.  And if you do not accept this message as the one true message, then you must be opposed to Christmas and you must be defeated in this peculiar “war on Christmas.”

To hear the true message of Christmas, we must open our minds as well as our hearts.  We have all grown up and we teach the Bible in such a way as to believe there is one Christmas story when there are two (one in Matthew, where the Magi are the focus) and one in Luke (where we hear of the shepherds).

This is a simple story but as we grow in age, we must also grow in wisdom as well.  We must at some point in our life understand the world into which Jesus was born.  We must understand why it was that the shepherds were first to be told and why the Magi, no matter when they arrived, are also part of the story (I discussed this a few years ago in “A Personal Evolution of Christmas”).

The shepherds were the first to hear the message of Christmas because they were not the rich or powerful.  Rather, the shepherds of Jesus’ day were among the lowest of society.  Their work made them virtual outcasts in society and kept them barred from the Temple.  The religious, political, and economic elite then would never have imagined that the lowest of society would be the first, expect the news of the Messiah to be given to them first (even when the prophecies told otherwise).

The arrival of the Magi (and we really don’t know how many there were; we use three because of the gifts mentioned in Matthew’s story) tells us several things.  For Matthew, the gifts of frankincense and myrrh spoke of Christ’s death to come, for Matthew was writing his Gospel after the fact and not while it was occurring.  That the Magi came was also a statement that the message of Christmas was going to be for the whole world and not just the people of Israel.  I would like to think that Matthew was also making a subtle statement that the message of Christmas was about the mind as much as it was about the heart.

The Magi represented science in its beginning forms and to exclude the search for knowledge would be to limit the message of Christmas.

So, the true message of Christmas is more than a simple story and it is certainly not about power, greed, or exclusiveness.  Rather it is just the opposite of what so many hear.

And when we speak of those who hear the message of Christmas, we must remember that many people do not want to hear a message that speaks in those terms for the darkness of the season only amplifies the pain and loss in their soul.  Messages that speak of personal triumph merely remind many of what they do not have.

The true message of Christmas is one that brings a new light into the world, a light that will grow in time and will encompass the world.  It speaks of hope, at a time when the world needed hope and needs hope today. It is not a message limited to one individual or one group but to all individuals, even if they do not believe or want to believe.  And while there may not be many proclaiming this message, there are a few who do.  And as they tell this message of Christmas to their friends, and lead a life that exemplifies the meaning of the message and the story of Christmas, others will hear it.

And just as the message grew from the back roads of the Galilee through the efforts of the early church, so too will the message grow today.

The true message of Christmas is that in the darkness and despair of the world around us, in a world of hatred and violence, in a world where many are excluded, a child was born.  And with the birth of the Christ Child, a light that can never be extinguished began to shine.  It was and is a light that brings hope and promise to all mankind.

 

“The Meaning Of The Christmas Story – 2014”


Here are my thoughts for Christmas this year.

If we are to give meaning to the story of Christmas that we tell this year, we ought to start with what we know.

For some, the idea that Jesus Christ was ever born is a fantasy or superstition. But something happened some two thousand years ago that caused some people to write down some stories and tell them to others and risk their lives in doing so. And while it may not always be possible to factually verify everything, that we are still telling the story today should tell us that there is a certain degree of truth in the story.

But let us start with the knowledge that we know Jesus probably wasn’t born on December 25th or in December for that matter. With the statement in Luke’s Gospel that the shepherds were in their fields that night, we can surmise that Jesus was most likely born in either March or early April.

But if we were to celebrate Jesus’ birthday at that time, there would inevitably be a conflict with Easter and that would probably not be a good idea.

We also know that those involved in the early church coopted a pagan holiday that occurred during the winter solstice as the date for Christmas. One supposes this was done to change the focus but, as we will see in a few moments, there was at least one other compelling reason.

But let me just say at this moment, if you profess to be an atheist, why are you disturbed by all of this? By your own declaration, you do not believe in any sort of god or gods, so the actions of one group to “steal” another groups holiday should have no effect on you.

And as an atheist or even as a pagan believer, if you participate in any sort of gift exchange because it is Christmas, then you are in it for yourself and that is not nor has it ever been the story or meaning of Christmas.

I would also add that those many self-righteous individuals who call themselves Christian but lead a life that does not contain Christ are also in it for themselves. Just because you put a sticker on the right side of your bumper that proclaims “keeping Christ in Christmas” doesn’t make you a Christian if you haven’t kept Christ in your heart as well.

You see the story of Christmas begins with an invitation, not to the rich and the powerful or members of the political and religious establishment, but to the outcasts of society. The announcement of the birth of Jesus was given to the shepherds, who by the very nature of their work, were considered ritually unclean and no self-respecting citizen in Jesus’ time would have anything to do with them.

Despite the profession as their King and his beginnings as a shepherd, the shepherd profession was not very well appreciated. I can only imagine what parents back then might have thought if one of their children were to come home and say that they wanted to become a shepherd or that they were going to marry one.

I don’t think much has changed in the past two thousand years. The people and professions change but we still exude an aura of exclusion when it comes to the people we bring to Christ or to whom we take Christ.

Yes, we have a food closet at our church; we hold food and coat drives; yes, we give food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas and we do all of that in the name of Christ but what happens the other days of the year. If we truly felt that no one should go hungry or naked, homeless or sick, why are we not doing something about that? Is that not what Christ said He came to this world to do and is that not part of the Christmas story?

Now, the one thing that I don’t want to do is mix up the Christmas stories in the Gospels but then again we have done a pretty good job of that on our own anyway. It may be that most people don’t know the reason for celebrating Christmas in December but they also don’t know that the story that is told is a combination of stories and that there really is no Christmas story in Mark or John.

And that makes the inclusion of the Magi all the more important. We also speak of the three wise men but we really don’t know if there were only three or if more may have been on the trip. We make the argument for three because three gifts were given. In fact, we don’t even know if they were all men (I think that we make certain assumptions about the nature of the position that are necessarily true). And we have to go to sources outside the Bible to get their names.

The Magi are in the story because they have seen signs of Jesus’ birth, signs that were available to the scientific advisers of the Israelite political and religious authorities as well. How is it that they missed them? Could it have been they were more interested in preserving their own positions than advancing knowledge? Why was it that the signs of Jesus’ birth were given to individuals outside the religious and political establishment? Could it have been that the knowledge of Christ’s birth was meant for all and not just a select few?

Even today, there are those who seek to limit our knowledge, telling us that there is a limit to our knowledge. But if their counterparts two thousand years ago couldn’t get it right, how can we trust them today?

We know that Jesus will grow in wisdom and stature so learning had to be important to Mary and Joseph. So should it be today. And just as the Magi looked beyond the horizon, so should our learning process push the envelope as well. Say what you will about the science of the Magi, it was the foundation for the science of today. They sought answers to questions and that is what we need to be teaching today. The answer to the question will always be in what we do, not what is in some book.

It was never made clear to me when I was growing up what sort of society Jesus was raised in or what the nature of that time might have been. But I have come to know, because I have sought to find out, that though the time may have been called the “Pax Romana”, it was a peace enforced by brutal force and oppression.

Are these times any different? We still seek to establish peace through force and oppression but we are finding that it does not work. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, there can be no peace as long as war is used to accomplish it.

We are also reminded that even one of Jesus’ disciples questioned the validity of Jesus’ message because He was from Nazareth. Our own ability to understand people is often clouded by our own preconceived notions of time and place. We struggle each day to judge a person by the content of their character and not their outward appearance.

We live in a dark time, in part because the relationship between the earth and its journey around the sun. But the darkness that envelopes our lives is brought on as much by our indifference to the conditions of others and our own self-interests.

I would hope that when the early church authorities decided to co-opt pagan winter solstice ceremonies, they did so because they understood that there was more to the darkness in the people’s lives than just the position of the earth around the sun.

Christ’s birth was meant to be the light that could overcome the darkness and allow people to know that, no matter who they may be or where they come from, there was hope in this world. He came to this world to bring light to a darkened world and that is the Christmas story.

It was never meant to be a one-day event. It was meant to be the beginning of a story that lasts a lifetime and one we live each day. It was and need to be a story told by all and told to all. So, as you tell the story, remember how it began and how lives were changed.

That is the meaning of the story this year and in the years to come.

“The Christmas Story”


For those that don’t follow this blog on a regular basis, you have to know that my roots lie in the South (having been born in Virginia and lived in Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee). And as I have said on a number of occasions, when you mention places like Corinth, Rome, Mount Moriah, and Shiloh, I am more apt to think of Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee than I am places in Israel and the Mid-East.

For me, the Bible has and will always be about life today, not life two thousand years ago. So it makes sense to read a translation that is a bit more modern and tied up with archaic or out-dated language. And those two points, being Southern and having a sense that the Bible needs to mean something to me, lead me to the Cotton Patch Gospels by Clarence Jordan. If you have never read this translation, you don’t know what you are missing.

But what kind of hospitality would it be for me not to offer you a taste of this translation? So here is the Christmas Story as translated by Clarence Jordan for the Cotton Patch Gospels. (If you are even more interested, I included his translation of the story of the Good Samaritan with the message I posted back in July for the message “Who Will Be The One?”)

The Christmas Story – as translated by Clarence Jordan for the Cotton Patch Gospel, Jesus’ Doings (Luke)

“It happened in those days that a proclamation went out from President Augustus that every citizen must register. This was the first registration while Quirinius was Secretary of War. So everybody went to register, each going to their own home town. Joseph too went up from south Georgia from the city of Valdosta, to his home in north Georgia, a place named Gainesville, to register with his bride Mary, who by now was heavily pregnant. While they were there, her time came, and she gave birth to her first boy. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in an apple box. (There was no room for them at the hospital.)

Now there were some farmers in that section who were up late at night tending to their baby chicks. And a messenger from the Lord appeared to them, and evidence of the Lord was shining all about them. It nearly scared the life out of them. And the messenger said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid; for listen, I’m bringing you good news of a great joy in which all people will share. Today your deliverer was born in the city of David’s family. He is the Leader. He is the Lord. And here’s a clue for you: you will find the baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in an apple box.’ And all of a sudden there was with the messenger a crowd of angels singing God’s praises and saying, ‘Glory in the highest to God, And on Earth, peace to humankind, The object of God’s favor.’

When the messengers went away from them into the sky, the farmers said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Gainesville and see how all this the Lord has showed us has turned out.’
So they went just as fast as they could, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in an apple box. Seeing this, they related the story of what had been told them about this little fellow. The people were simply amazed as they listened to what the farmers told them. And Mary clung to all these words, turning them over and over in her memories. The farmers went back home, giving God the credit and singing praises for all they had seen and heard, exactly as it had been described to them. And when the day came for him to be christened, they named him Jesus, as he was called by the angel before he was conceived.

After they had finished carrying out the rules and regulations of the church in regard to the child, they brought him to the bishop in Atlanta to dedicate him to the Lord, just as the Scripture said: ‘Every first baby, if it’s a boy, shall be dedicated to the Lord.’ Also, they wanted to make a thank-offering — as the Scripture said — of the equivalent of ‘a couple of ducks or two fryers.

Now then, there was a man in Atlanta whose name was Simon. He was a sincere and devout man, and deeply concerned for the welfare of the world. Being a spirit-led man, he had been assured by the Holy Spirit he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Leader. Guided by the spirit, he came to the First Church. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus for the ceremonies, Simon picked him up in his arms and praised God. He said, ‘Now let your servant, Almighty Master, Slip quietly away in peace, as you’ve said. For these eyes of mine have seen your deliverance Which you have made possible for all of the people. It’s a light to illuminate the problem of races, A light to bring honor to your faithful disciples.’

And Joseph and Mary were really amazed at these things that were said about him. Simon congratulated them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Listen, this little one is put here for the downfall and uplift of many in the nation, and for a symbol of controversy — your heart, too, will be stabbed with a sword — so that the inner feelings of many hearts may be laid bare.’

Now Hannah, a lady minister, was there. She was from one of the best families in the South. She was quite old, having lived with her husband for seven years after getting married, and as a widow from then until her present age of eighty-four. She never left the church, worshiping there night and day with prayers and vigils. She came up to them at the same time and gave God’s approval, and started talking about the child to all those who were hoping for the nation’s deliverance.

And when they got through with all the church requirements, they went back to south Georgia, to their own city of Valdosta. And the little fellow grew and became strong. He was plenty smart, and God liked him.”

The True Gift of Christmas


I meant to post this on Sunday. It was meant as a blog both for Sunday, using the lectionary readings for Christmas Day (Year B) – Isaiah 52: 7 – 10, Hebrews 1: 1 – 12, and John 1: 1 – 14 – as well as a blog for Christmas. From one standpoint, Christmas this year was special because it came on a Sunday. Looking back at my notes and records I find that I have yet to preach a sermon on Christmas Day.

During the time I was at Neon, Walker Valley, and Tompkins Corners Christmas was on another day of the week and neither of the churches planned anything special. Twice in my career Christmas Eve been on a Sunday; both times it was also the 4th Sunday in Advent. In one instance at Walker Valley (December 24, 2000), I prepared one message for the morning (“It’s the Little Things”) and another for the evening Christmas Eve service (“Why All the Shouting?”) The second time, December 24, 2006, I was at Dover and had to plan for the transition from Advent to Christmas Eve during the same service; it made for an interesting service – “Words of Christmas”.

My previous Christmas Day messages are “So This Is Christmas”
(2005), “Does It Matter?”
(2006), What Gift Did You Give?
(2007), “The Christmas Miracle”
(2008), and “Why Should This Day Be Any Different?” (2009).

So this is an interesting blog

I sometimes wonder if we really understand what the true gift of Christmas is. I am not even sure we understand what the meaning of Christmas is or why we even celebrate Christmas.

Like so many people I grew up with a traditional view of the Christmas story, of Christ being born in a stable in Bethlehem on December 25th with shepherds, wise men, and assorted farm animals in attendance. It was a combination of what Matthew and Luke had written and I accepted it, even though it was clear that there were contradictions in the narrative.

In addition, the celebration of Christmas didn’t begin until almost 250 years after the beginning of the church. Christ’s birth was not as important as was His death, resurrection, and 2nd coming. And if the shepherds were in the fields with their flocks, it probably was more like March or April than December.

It is probably just as well that we do celebrate Jesus birth in December because if we opted for the more probable time we would have the interesting situation of celebrating Christmas and Easter almost at the same time. I do not think that would be the best solution.

The December date was chosen as an alternative to traditional pagan celebrations that occurred around the 25th. For some, doing this creates a falsity in Christianity. I don’t know; Christ was born and so he had to have a birthday. What do those individuals whose birthdate is February 29th do? Do they only celebrate their birth once every four years? It isn’t the date or the choice of dates that is the important part of the moment; it is the celebration of the moment so we do it on December 25th.

We are also hung up on the gift giving that takes place, so much so that it seems our economic system will collapse if we do not buy each and every one of our friends, relatives, and neighbors a gift. But the gifts that were given that first Christmas were not to the parents or the shepherds but to a newborn baby perceived to be a present and future King, a King who would change the world.

Nothing in the Bible tells us when they came (and some traditions put their arrival at up to two years after the birth) or how many there were. We get the idea of three wise men from the number of gifts given. The names of the three wise men that are associated with the gifts come from church tradition perhaps some 500 years after the fact.

We have over the years called the wise men astrologers because they sought relationships between the actions of stars and the actions of mankind. But the study of stars and their motions then was the beginning of astronomy and organized science. We don’t understand this and we tend to trivialize what they did.

Do these contradictions and how we arrive at the Christmas story that we have told for generations dilute or somehow weaken the message? If we focus on the message rather than the date, then I don’t believe so. But it does require that we do what we have been asked to do from the very beginning of our faith journey and that is grow in the faith, if for no other reason than to better be able to tell the story to the next generation.

When you study the story, when you put it into the context of time and place, the message that Jesus will preach when He does begin His ministry becomes clearer. The problem today is that we do want to do this. We have heard the same story for so many years that we have accepted it as it is. It results a terrible misunderstanding of the story and what transpired.

The true gift of Christmas is in the story but we have lost that gift because we do understand the message and we are more wrapped up in what we get from others, not what we get from the Christ Child.

We know that the first announcement of the birth of the Christ Child was made to the shepherds but we fail to understand the significance of that announcement. Perhaps because we so often will refer to Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we think that is why the shepherds were the first to be told.

But what many don’t know is that shepherds were social outcasts, perhaps in part because of Biblical laws stated in the Old Testament and partially because their work in the fields left them dirty and smelly, far more than normal.

To announce to the lowest of society that a Savior was born was to say that all would be welcome in God’s Kingdom. Throughout His ministry Jesus took down the walls that society had erected between people. It began with His birth and the announcement to the shepherds. And yet, how many people in church cringe at the thought of homeless people and other outcasts being allowed into the church today?

The wise men who sought the Christ Child saw signs in the world that suggested something was about to happen. It was this curiosity and desire to seek new knowledge that drove them to leave the safety and comfort of their home and journey to a distant land.

But the inclusion of the wise men is more than just about gifts for a baby who would be a king; it was a statement that we must seek the Christ Child with all our resources. One of the gifts that we receive on Christmas is knowledge, knowledge about the world around us as well as knowledge about God. The passage from Isaiah speaks of the wonders of God; we cannot see the wonders of God if we do not look at the world around us. The wise men that came were scientists more than astrologers; they sought God in His works.

But we live in a world today that says that you either believe in science or you believe in religion but you cannot believe in both. Christ’s birth was a statement that knowledge was important; yet we seem today determine to limit the spread of knowledge in fear that it will destroy us.

Too many people today want religion to limit the boundaries of both society and the mind. Too many people use religion as an instrument of fear. And combined with political power, this fear is a very powerful tool.

Herod feared the Christ Child and we know what he did. The shepherds were fearful when the angels first told them of the Savior’s birth. But they overcame that fear and saw firsthand that hope had been born in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem. The wise men journey to an unknown land; surely they must have been afraid at times about having made that decision to travel so far. But they made the journey and beheld the wonders of the Christ Child. And they choose to travel a different direction home because of the knowledge that they have gained during that trip.

On Christmas, we are given the gift of freedom. It is a gift that goes beyond the walls of society and extends the limits of the mind. In accepting Christ as your Savior, you are given that gift. In allowing the Holy Spirit you can use this gift. The call today is to seek this gift, the birth of the Christ Child, and then use this gift so that others can find it to.

The Christmas Miracle


Here are my thoughts for Christmas, 2008.

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What is the true meaning of Christmas? Has it gotten to the point where Christmas carries the same meaning for the month of December as the name aspirin does the Bayer? Is Christmas so much a part of our December lifestyle that we don’t even pause to think about what we should be doing?

We hear politicians almost automatically end their speeches with “God Bless America” and woe be to any politician should they not add “so help me God” to the end of their oath of office, even if it is not part of the official oath. We put “In God We Trust” on our money and we raised all sorts of ruckus when it was placed on the side of the coin instead of the full side (there are numismatic terms for where it goes but I don’t remember them). We get bent out of shape when someone argues about taking the phrase “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance, even though the phrase was never in the original Pledge and only put into the Pledge during the 1950’s, at the height of the great “Communists in the closet” scare.

We hear commentators on the far right get all bent out of shape when some store uses “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” in their advertising and call it the “war on Christmas”. But these commentators are not interested in the meaning of Christmas; all they are interested in is that our economy and Christmas be linked together. We have lost the meaning of Thanksgiving through the need to have sales over the Thanksgiving holiday and now it seems as if all we hear at Christmas time are economic reports and the need for lots and lots of spending to keep our economy strong.

This may be the year a miracle is needed then because it will almost certainly take some sort of miracle for this country’s economy to recover to the level everyone wants it at. But that’s not the true miracle of Christmas and unless this country seriously stops what it is doing and begins to think about what Christmas means, it will take more than a miracle to solve the problems of this country.

Because the problems of this country are not just economic; they are social as well. The problems of this country are not found in how much we spend and buy but in the fact that we equate success with how much we spend and how much we earn. And while we focus on monetary gains, we forget that there are many people who will not have anything this Christmas and that a simple dinner of hot dogs and beans may be a luxury dinner.

Society has used Christianity to justify war, violence, racism, and suppression while at the same time saying it represented peace and hope. It is no wonder that so many people are leaving the church today or finding solace in other places. The words that they hear do not correspond with the actions they see.

And in a world drowning in despair and lost in the present darkness, the one thing the world does not need is a confusing message from Christ’s representatives on earth. The core message of the Gospel, in fact the core message of the entire Bible, is to care for other individuals, no matter who they might be. But we have transformed the message of the Gospel into a message of the individual first. Instead of a community of believers dedicated to the care of all the members of the community, we have become a corporate entity that serves the interests of selected individuals.

Instead of caring for the world in which we live, we quite willing pursue policies that pillage the environment. Instead of challenging our youth to see beyond the boundaries of tomorrow, we seek to limit how they learn and what they learn. We call for accountability from our teachers yet we won’t put money into the educational processes so that our children can truly learn.

And while we worry what will happen if our corporations fail, we show little concern for the people who work for those corporations and who may lose their jobs because of the greed and incompetence of upper management. We call for sacrifices and givebacks from the workers but we don’t demand accountability or sacrifices from the recipients of our government.

Against this background of indifference, antipathy, and ignorance a child will be born. This child will be born into a world of limits and rules, a world where economic status guarantees privilege and success, a world where one is born and who their parents are will determine their future.

The birth of Jesus will be announced to the lowliest of society, the shepherds in the field. The wisest and perhaps richest of society, the Magi, will seek Him out. The message of Christ’s birth some two thousand years ago will echo across the land of his birth and around the globe. It will echo down through the ages to this day and place. It is a message that transforms people and changes societies.

In the darkness of the season, a light first appeared. In the stillness of the night, a tiny cry was heard. The message of Christ began in that light and with that cry; it is the miracle of Christmas. Shall that light be seen in the darkness of today; shall the cry of joy be heard this year?

If people choose to ignore this message and choose to put themselves before others; if people choose to ignore this message and put corporations before individuals; if people choose to maintain the status quo of wealth and privilege then there will be no miracle this year.

But if those who call themselves Christian again hear the message and take it into the heart and soul and put the message into action, then there will be a miracle this Christmas. If society is transformed from what it is now into what it can be by the people who celebrate this birth, then there will be a miracle.

So This Is Christmas


My thoughts for this Christmas. May the Peace of the Season be with your family and you throughout the season and the coming days.

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So this is Christmas? (“Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon)

So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas

I hope you have fun

The near and the dear ones

The old and the young

{Refrain}

A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

And so this is Christmas War is over

For weak and for strong If you want it

For rich and the poor ones War is over

The road is so long Now

And so happy Christmas War is over

For black and for white If you want it

For yellow and red ones War is over

Let’s stop all the fight Now

{Refrain}

And so this is Christmas War is over

And what have we done If you want it

Another year over War is over

And a new one just begun Now

And so happy Christmas War is over

I hope you have fun If you want it

The near and the dear one War is over

The old and the young Now

{Refrain}

War is over if you want it

War is over now

Do they know it’s Christmas? (“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure)

It’s Christmastime,

there’s no need to be afraid

At Christmastime,

we let in light and we banish shade

And in our world of plenty

we can spread a smile of joy

Throw your arms around the world

at Christmastime

But say a prayer,

pray for the other ones

At Christmastime it’s hard,

but when you’re having fun

There’s a world outside your window,

and it’s a world of dread and fear

Where the only water flowing

is the bitter sting of tears

And the Christmas bells that ring there

are the clanging chimes of doom

Well tonight thank God it’s them

instead of you

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime

The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life (Ooh)

Where nothing ever grows

No rain or rivers flow

Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

Here’s to you raise a glass for everyone

Here’s to them underneath that burning sun

Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

Feed the world

Feed the world

Feed the world

Let them know it’s Christmastime again

Feed the world

Let them know it’s Christmastime again

As I was thinking about this piece, I first thought of John Lennon’s Christmas song, “So This Is Christmas?” But I was reminded of another Christmas song that doesn’t get a lot of air play at this time of year. It was 1984 and there was a major famine in Ethiopia. Bob Geldof had heard about famine through a report on the BBC and decided to bring some of his musician friends and contacts together in order to raise funds for the famine relief. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out when or why John Lennon wrote his Christmas song.

But it is interesting, don’t you think, that we will constantly play John Lennon’s song, even with it’s anti-war overtones at the end, but we very seldom hear reminders that there are people in this world where Christmas is not a day of rejoicing or giving but rather just another day in which the struggle to get to the next day takes all your resources, all your time, and all your efforts.

What is Christmas supposed to be? Is it the culmination of four weeks of preparation and anticipation that is over on December 26th? Or is it the beginning of a new life for each one of us, a life filled with hope and promise?

The predominant theme each year at this time is not the birth of Christ and the coming salvation of mankind but rather the question as to whether or not businesses will make enough money in order to finish the year in a financially viable position. The birth of the Christ Child and the beginning of hope and promise for all mankind is almost an afterthought. Even the biggest churches in this country seem to think that having church services on Christmas Day is too much of a burden on their members, just because it happens to be a Sunday. Have we relegated Christ to the back of the room? Have we forgotten just why it was that Christ was born and why Christ came to us?

We spend all our time as if Christmas were the end of the season, the end of the year. When Christmas is over, we take down the tree, we put away the ornaments and the manager and we plan for the end of the year party. We seem to think that Christmas is the end, not the beginning.

But in the Gospel reading from John for today (John 1: 1 – 14) we are told that Christ was a part of this world from the beginning. So it is that we should see this day not as an end to the time but a beginning of time. John the Baptist was sent, not as a harbinger of the end time but rather as the prophet of the new. Those that come to know Christ will find a new world before them.

As the writer of Hebrews tells us (Hebrews 1: 1 – 4), God sent his prophets to tell us of the days when Christ would be among us. Are not these those times? Why is it that so many people want these to be the end times, the times when the world comes to an end? A child is born in Bethlehem; this child will bring goodness to the world, light in the darkness, and this child will bring righteousness and justice for all. These do not sound like the end times to me; they sound more like a beginning.

Did not the shepherds leave the manger that night to tell others of the joy and hope that was present that night? Did not the three wise men return home differently than they came? Are not these signs of a new beginning? Are not these the signs that we should begin anew?

Like the prophet Isaiah, we should celebrate this day. We should break forth into singing for even among the dreariness that marks our days, we have the sign that God has comforted His people. (Isaiah 52: 7 – 10)

Yes, this is Christmas and we should celebrate this day as the new beginning that it represents. We should open our days and allow all mankind to be a part of this wonderful and glorious day. Like the shepherds who came to the manger the night before, we should take the message of the birth of Christ, once in a stable but now in our hearts, out into the world. There are those out there who will not get to rejoice in this day, not because they do not know but because the world has made it impossible for them to do so. When we leave church this morning, we take with us the light of Christ in our hearts. Let us take this light out into the world so that others will also know that there is joy and hope and peace in this world. Let us take the light of Christ out into the world so that everyone does know that this truly is Christmas and Christ is born.