Merry Christmas from Midland!
Tomorrow is Christmas Day and it falls on the Lord’s Day and it’s beautiful. We won’t only be gathering with our families in our homes, we’ll be gathering with our brothers and sisters in Christ in beautiful worship centers designed for coming together in the presence of God. We won’t just be eating turkey and ham and jalapeno corn with our relatives, we’ll also be eating and drinking the communion meal together with our Lord and with one another as members of his eternal Body. We won’t only be unwrapping presents purchased at stores and online, we’ll be receiving the gift of Christ’s unmitigated peace and joy through song, prayer, Scripture, and the proclamation of the Good News with fellow believers. What a blessing!
Tomorrow at GCR, we’re planning a traditional Christmas service with Christmas hymns, candle lightings, a story time with our kids on stage, and readings from Luke 2. I’m going to show a whole bunch of pictures from our trip to Bethlehem in a sermon we’re calling, “For All People.” There will also be a photo area for family pics and hot chocolate and candy canes.
The Bundys and Hills are lighting the Advent candle at the beginning of tomorrow’s assembly. Here’s the script we’re using:
Today we light the center candle of Advent, the candle that symbolizes the arrival into this world of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This candle is white, to represent the light that now shines into the darkness.
Jesus is born! Jesus has come! Jesus is God with us!
Jesus is our eternal hope! Our surpassing peace! Our everlasting joy!
The curse is no more, God’s covenant promises are fulfilled, and we live today and forever in righteous relationship with the Lord and with one another because Jesus Christ is born!
Christmas Day won’t fall on Sunday again until the year 2033. This is special. Where will you be in eleven years? How old will your kids be? Or your grandchildren? Make tomorrow special, make it an out-of-the-ordinary Christmas. Take the opportunity to teach them and show them and experience with them what’s really important to us and why. Take ’em to church.
I don’t really want to get into a whole thing here, but can we all just relax on this “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” thing? There is no war against Christmas. There is no threat in the United States to anybody’s freedom of religion or right to religious expression. Don’t get sucked in to the harmful hijacking of the Christian faith for national political purposes.
There are many American Christians who believe those who say “Happy Holidays” are intentionally undermining Christianity and working to remove it from its rightful place as the dominant religion in the U.S. Many American Christians instruct their fellow believers to resist this movement, to fight back, by shouting “Merry Christmas” at every opportunity. We’re told to use the phrase as a weapon against the left-wing secularists and atheists and Muslims who are seeking to destroy our right to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
(Does anybody else find it ironic that those in the Churches of Christ who are making the most noise about this belong to a movement that, for most of its existence, purposefully ignored the Christ in Christmas? We refused to sing Joy to the World in December. We pridefully preached anything but the birth of Jesus on the Sunday before the 25th to prove some weird point that we were right about the season of Jesus’ birth, we were more biblically accurate, and we were not influenced by the culture to use religious words and displays to celebrate a pagan holiday.)
Is Christianity so fragile? Is our faith so feeble that when we are confronted with change that threatens our perceived power in a pluralistic and democratic society we respond with anger and defensiveness? True Christian faith is not frail. It doesn’t need to be propped up by a symbolic greeting snarled at every cashier and passerby to assert dominance over other faiths. Or no faith.
The threat to Christianity is not saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” The real threat to Christianity is people who claim to be Christian not acting like Christians.
Our faith is much better served by following the lead of our Lord Jesus: feeding the hungry and clothing the needy, visiting the sick and those in prison, welcoming the refugee and loving our enemies, forgiving and accepting and loving every single person our God puts in front of us. That vision of Christian faith is much more compelling to our pluralistic and democratic culture than the one that proclaims “Merry Christmas” as an act of defiance with a hint of aggression and arrogance.
We are a people who claim to be saved by grace, rescued by love. Why do we act like people who don’t see things the way we do will be saved by our contempt and confrontation and lines in the sand? Whatever you say should be said as a demonstration of kindness, warmth, peace, joy, acceptance, and love. Whatever you hear should be received with patience and understanding and peace. The world will be won when we act more like the infant Jesus who came here as a helpless and vulnerable baby, with no rights, to serve rather than to be served, to seek and save the lost with kindness and acceptance and joy.
Several of our high school Seniors will deliver our Advent readings and light the fourth candle at our GCR Church tomorrow morning. This is the script:
Today we light the fourth candle of Advent, the candle that represents love.
We remember the eternal love of our Heavenly Father who sent his Son to restore us and all of creation.
We remember the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus who left his home in glory to save us from our sins.
And the selfless love we share with one another as a result of the redeeming work of Christ.
Today we resolve to receive our Lord’s love and to share it with the whole world in the light of the new creation.
1 John 4:9-12
Our GCR kids will perform a song from their upcoming Christmas pageant at church tomorrow morning. Luke Sikazwe and his mother, Ruth, will read our Advent reflections and light the third candle of Advent for our congregation. I’m posting the weekly scripts here so you can do your own reflections with your family or your small group or in your own church. I pray this is helpful.
Today we light the third candle of Advent, the candle that symbolizes joy.
This candle is pink in color, which represents joy and marks a shift in this Advent season.
Today we move from repentance and preparation to celebration and rejoicing.
We rejoice together in the gift of salvation through the coming of the Christ.
We praise God for the coming fulfillment of his covenant promises.
And we joyfully resolve to live into and proclaim the eternal Kingdom of our Lord.