It is Christmas week, and on Thursday and Friday many Christians from around the world will gather for worship, to celebrate the birth of the one we call Lord and Savior. In honor of this day, I'd like to re-post a column I wrote for the Lompoc Record, and published Christmas Eve, 2005.
Hark the Herald Angels sing, Glory to the new born King; peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Yes, Christmas is finally here! Before we know it the decorations will come down, the turkey will be eaten, and the wrapping paper safely tossed in the garbage 7 hopefully to be recycled 7 and we will all have moved on to our New Year/s parties. We spend so much time preparing for it that the Christmas itself seems to pass us by in the blink of an eye.
Still, the 12 days of Christmas have just begun, and now we can stop to savor the message of Christmas, a message that is easy to miss in all the noise and hubbub of the season. The message is a simple one; it is a message of salvation (healing), of reconciliation, of peace and goodwill.
Christmas comes bearing the promise of life changing experiences with God. The Christian community celebrates these encounters with God with the songs and texts shared in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Christmas Eve has always been, for me, the defining moment of the Christmas season. As we gather at the Lord/s table and share in the bread and cup that signify the presence of Christ with us, I experience the transforming presence of God anew.
This same message of transformation can be found in many of the classic stories of Christmas, none of which are explicitly Christian, or even religious. Running through the stories of Charlie Brown, George Bailey, the Grinch, and Ebenezer Scrooge is the message of life changing encounters with the Christmas spirit. Each of the characters receive a renewed sense of purpose for life and they become people of good will and good deeds.
Charlie Brown is a boy who can do nothing right. He can/t even pick out a decent tree for the Christmas program, and yet, with Linus/ help that little tree becomes a glorious symbol of Christmas. It just takes a blanket and a few of Snoopy/s decorations to instill in Charlie Brown and his friends the joy of Christmas.
Then there/s the Grinch. He/s a miser and a hermit, who hates noise and wants to be left alone.
The racket of Christmas so upsets him that he gets a really horrible idea: Why not steal Christmas from the people of Whoville?
He steals all their presents, their decorations, and every piece of food, even their Who pudding. But when Christmas morning dawns, the people of Whoville wake up and gather in the center of town and begin to sing. When he hears the songs of joy that old Grinch discovers that Christmas isn/t really about material things and on that day the Grinch/s tiny heart grows several sizes.
George Bailey isn/t a bad guy, but when things go bad, he decides everyone would be better off without him. Just as he is about to jump into that icy river on Christmas Eve, an apprentice angel appears and shows George that life would be much worse without him. George Bailey discovers that every life, including his, has value, and through an act of grace he is redeemed and enabled to do good works for others.
Finally there is Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is my favorite Christmas character. He is a grumpy, unhappy, old miser, who hates everyone and everything. For Scrooge, Christmas is a humbug, a nuisance, and a reminder of his inconsolable loneliness. Then one Christmas Eve three spirits intervene and show him his past, present, and a possible future.
In the course of these visions, Scrooge realizes that his past choices have not only damaged his life, but also of those in his circle of influence, including Tiny Tim. From that day on, Scrooge became the most generous and caring person in all of London.
May these stories, along with the biblical stories of a baby born in a manger in a small town in a far off land, bring comfort, peace, and a new sense of purpose for your life. Like George Bailey, Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Scrooge, may you also be a blessing to those in your circle of influence.
This is the message of Christmas and may this one be both merry and blessed.
Dr. Bob Cornwall is pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Lompoc.
Posted in Editorial on Saturday, December 24, 2005 12:00 am