As I write these words, it occurs to me that Christmas 2016 will be a very special Christmas for me and for the dozens of fellow church members who will have returned recently from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage included visits to the village of Nazareth where Mary and Joseph received the news that they were part of God’s plan to send a Messiah into the world; the little town of Bethlehem where their child Jesus was born; and other locations like Cana where He transformed a wedding, the Sea of Galilee where He called His disciples, Bethany where He wept at the grave of His friend, and Jerusalem where His sacrificial love was revealed to the whole world.
For some in our church family, Christmas 2016 will be special for other reasons – as couples in love look forward to their wedding celebration in the New Year, students think about graduation in the Spring, new parents celebrate baby’s first Christmas, and parents-to-be look forward to the birth of another child of God.
And for still others, this Christmas will be special because this was the year they commended a loved one to God’s eternal care or received a discouraging diagnosis or saw their marriage falling apart. They too will hear the sorely needed words “Unto YOU is born this day a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord!” And by grace, they will think of the love that came from heaven to earth so that comfort and joy, the hope of heaven, and the peace that passes all understanding will occupy our hearts.
However you come to Christmas this year, I do welcome you to our gatherings in the house of God throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. Come as you are and bring whatever joys and heartaches need to find their home at the manger of Bethlehem’s Child, that He might be born in your heart again and give all of you a very special Christmas, because when you really think about it, that’s the only kind of Christmas there is.
As we move toward the conclusion of another year of ministry together at St. Andrew, I thank God for all who make their spiritual home in our congregation, and for all the ways in which the reality of Jesus has come to the world around us through your faithful worship, dedicated service, generosity of spirit and treasure, and the truly welcoming atmosphere that many have experienced among you.
Together with my colleagues on our staff and all our families, I wish you a very special, deeply meaningful celebration of our Lord’s promised coming into the world and a New Year filled with your own response to the great news that, come what may, you too are part of God’s plan to reveal the presence and love of His Son to those around you.
Much love, in Christ,