Come & See

For Lutherans and numerous other Christian denominations, Christmas is not just Christmas Eve, December 24th, and Christmas Day, December 25th. It is an extended season often called Christmastide celebrated from Christmas Eve until January 5th – the twelve days of Christmas. During this time we continue to observe the birth of Jesus. Many of us leave decorations in place until January 5th, the Twelfth Night, or until February 2nd, Candlemas, as we continue with our Christmas. In Lutheran and Episcopalian tradition , Candlemas is a time when congregants bring their candles to church for blessing. These candles are then used the rest of the year. They are symbolic of Jesus, the Christ, who referred to Himself as the Light of the World.

It is a time of communal celebration as well as personal reflection upon the meaning of this Holy season. It is a time to come and see what God has done.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” JOHN 3:16 KJV

O HOLY NIGHT

It is an extraordinary Christmas Eve. The normal candlelight services are mostly online only. Family gatherings are limited. Did you make yourself weary with the decorating, the house-cleaning, the meal preparations, and, of course, the shopping in a covid-19 environment?

Not me. I determined several years ago that simplicity was the best way to celebrate Christmas. I have moved my pre-lit tree from a corner in my craft area to centerstage in the living room where I can sit at night and early morning admiring the beauty of a tree with only lights and icicles. The other ornaments remained in their storage containers. Simple, right? As for gifts….lottery tickets by the handful provide entertainment and anticipation.

My Christmas Day meal has been planned for several weeks. The most extravagant dish will be a casserole of oyster dressing – Jim’s favorite holiday treat. Along with a roasted turkey breast and giblet gravy there will be cooked carrots, cranberry sauce, pickled beets in a strawberry jello and fruit cake. This is my idea of Christmas dinner done simply.

We can’t help but think of the many families struggling for food and shelter, searching for a light in the darkness of our country this year. The video I am sharing touched my heart in a mighty way reminding me, and hopefully you, what it is we are honoring and celebrating at this time of the year. It’s not about the decorations, the glitz, the food or the socializing. It is all about the gift of love given to us by a gracious and merciful God. It is about life lived victoriously in sobriety. It is about me caring about you more than me. It is about trusting the heart over the theology.

Enjoy the season. It is meant to be joyous and festive, but don’t forget the reason for the season. Merry Christmas and a blessed 2021 to all of you.

Tim Tebow – John 3:16

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

animals-elderly-forest-40873

During the 2009 American college football  championship game,  Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, a devout, unabashed Christian, wore John 3:16 in eye black under his eyes.  The verse became one of Google’s highest searched terms leading millions (94 million) to search John 3:16 during the game and in the hours after.  In a subsequent interview, Tim quipped that the number was staggering, but he was more amazed that there were 94 million people who did not know John 3:16.  “Everybody knows John 3:16.  It’s the first thing we learned in Sunday school.”

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…..

This is the Son whom we are celebrating during Christmastide.  The readings, the verses, the songs, the festivities are all an important element of the Christmas story, but the message to the world brought by this child in a manger is clearly uncomplicated.  Believe me, have faith in me, trust me, love me with all your heart, give your life to me and you shall have everlasting life.

What is that everlasting life about which John wrote?  I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I have lived without Jesus and I have lived with Jesus.  Living without the Son felt like a death sentence, physical and spiritual.  Living with him has been pretty darn good and, if life is eternal, then this is the eternal life I want.  I believe the God mystery is just that – a mystery  which unfolds with every step on this path we are walking. The path began with a cradled baby in Bethlehem and I am told it is never-ending.  That is good enough for me, how about you?  Want to join me?

JOHN 3:16

pexels-photo-1036154

 

“Don’t look back.  What happened then is now part of your story, a chapter in your life.  Reference it, remember it, learn from it, but don’t look back longingly.  You can’t have yesterday again.  It would impoverish your today.”

Certainly I would do life differently for today I hold the wisdom learned from yesterday.  Experience is a worthy teacher, but, it had to unfold exactly as it did for me to cultivate my lessons?  Each of those moments has molded my today.

“My child.  Don’t look back.  Doing so longingly discredits where I have brought you in your journey.  Your days of foolishness and frivolity tested my patience.  Your nights of deepest disobedience sorrowed my soul.”

Indeed, I was young and foolish.  Every one of my days was filled with deprivation.  Every night’s bed was one of wantonness and licentiousness.  My soul’s companion was unfathomable loneliness.  My desperate prayer was unheard.

“No, it was not unheard.  It was spoken from an insincere place within you that did not truly want to know or love me.  Like your fellow travelers on that path, you called upon me only in your times of travail.”

But, some of the times were good times.  Some of the experience was enjoyable.  The music that filled the air invigorated an otherwise dull existence.  The young people were excitedly filled with a casual indifference to the world scurrying about us.

“Of course you remember it that way.  Most of the experiences were not good.  Your life confused and concerned those who loved you.  Understanding your disregard for maturity and responsibility was impossible for them.”

Yes, that’s true.  And they loved me anyway.  Oh, if only I could return and let them know how sorry I am.  I stole their peace and dishonored their trust.  I was deeply dishonest and deceptive regarding the man I had become.

“My son, don’t you understand?  A father’s love, a mother’s love, a spouse’s love is unconditional as is my love.  Through it all, it was not a question of when we should stop loving you, but when you would learn to love yourself.”

Lord, have I become a man pleasant in your sight?  Would my father, my mother smile upon seeing my face again?  Could they ever forgive me for the shame endured because of my indiscretions?  Have I become a man worthy of your love?

“For I loved you so much that I gave my only begotten Son to you.  You are also my son whom I can love no less.  If you live the truth of Jesus, you will not perish but have life everlasting with me.  Does that answer your questions?”

Of course, John 3:16. Yes, Lord.  Amen.

CANDLE