Saturday, December 25, 2010


Christmas Sunset, Jamestown, NC

It occurred to me as I attended the Christmas Eve service of my sixty eighth year that it’s possible that I have seldom if ever missed participating in this service in all those years. I have always been in the presence of family on that evening. Your circle of family can be defined as your immediate blood relatives. It can be expanded to include close friends, but I think we generally consider family to include those closest to us who share a bond and have been permitted access to our defense shields. It also occurred to me that the family I attended the service with on this year of the twilight of my life was neither the family I was with during my childhood nor the family I was with in my early adulthood. My earliest remembrance is the Christmas Eve services where all of us children memorized a verse from Luke’s Christmas story from the second chapter of his book. Siblings and cousins participated and proud parents watched anxiously in the pews. Once we all joined in singing Silent Night, the early evening service was over and we would be given a brown paper sack with shelled nuts, apples and oranges to take home as a Christmas gift. We would hurry home and then and only then would we be permitted to unwrap the few Christmas presents bearing our name under the small evergreen tree. I don’t ever remember the air outside being anything but fresh and cool and invigorating once I emerged from the service. Yes, that relates to the time of year, but it also relates to the exhilarating story of Jesus’ birth and the spirit angels’ good tidings of the arrival of a savior for all the world. Mary alone initially understood that the child she would deliver would soon deliver her.

I’ve attended Christmas Eve services in various churches over the years and it never occurred to me not to attend them. There’s a special mystical meaning to Christmas Eve that commemorates an ordinary birth of an extraordinary being. Yes, we celebrate the appearance of God taking human form over two thousand years ago. And He then developed into a man of thirty years before He spent the next three years teaching all of us how to live and see the very nature of God. There are those today who say they would believe if God revealed himself to them personally. He did that in human form and still men who chose not to willingly cross the bridge of faith to a new birth did not see Him, even then. Actually, He still reveals himself in many ways every day—in the petals of a flowering bloom, in the spectacular light of a sunrise and in the first cry of a newborn. This birth involved no ordinary man. This was both a human being and a spiritual being in one form. This was a unique being that lived a perfect life on earth until he died in our place. Why did he wait until that particular time to appear to us? He could have arrived much earlier in human history. And He could have waited even longer—perhaps until this generation. But in His infinite wisdom He chose that time and place and we celebrate that time even today. Many powerful men did not acknowledge Him as anything beyond a troubling revolutionary during His lifetime, but fortunately a chosen few did understand. All but one died a horrendous martyr’s death to validate the truth they had experienced. And because of their verbal and written testimony, I have been celebrating His arrival for all of my sixty eight years to acknowledge that the God of all creation finally did come among us. He revealed Himself to us so that we could order our lives to have the assurance of a better life as a human being and an eternal life as a spiritual being in the constant presence of our creator. I believe He created us to be intelligent and independent enough to generally survive with our wits on a daily basis, but to understand that we are vulnerable enough to require the encouragement of others and the strength and guidance of a loving eternal Father now and forevermore. We were created as a family of man and simply told to love God and one another.

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