Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Memories -- Thoughts on the Christmas Gospel


In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists.This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child.18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

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If you have attended a Christmas Eve/Christmas Day service over the years you have heard the Christmas story as told by Luke.  Indeed, if you've watched the Charlie Brown Christmas, you've heard Linus remind Charlie Brown and us what Christmas is really all about.    






Linus doesn't go all the way to the end of the passage, to where the shepherds have come to see for themselves what the angels had announced.   In verse 19, we read:  "Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully.

We all have memories of Christmas past.  Some maybe good, while others may not.  Christmas as a season can be merry and joyful.  It can also be stressful and lonely.  Every year the need to get to the mall, buy up everything in sight, descends upon us.  It's almost a national duty to make sure the stores make their annual profit.  But that's exactly the point of this beloved Christmas special.  Charlie Brown has become overwhelmed by the glitz and frenetic pace of the season that he's ready to sit and cease functioning.  He looks out at the scene and recognizes that none of this makes sense.  This can't be what Christmas is about.  Linus helps set him straight.

As we head toward Christmas Eve, with a world that knows not peace and good will.  May we become the harbingers of this message.  In our words and in our deeds, may we bring joy into the world.  The message of Christmas is that good news is often found in unexpected places -- even in a barn or a cave outside Bethlehem.  

And "Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully."  Mary invites us to join her in committing to memory the message that the one who saves us has been born.  It is a message of healing, of wholeness, of grace.  These are God's gifts to us at this season and in every season.  May we commit this to memory.

And may yours be a blessed and holy Christmas.

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