Why church for Christmas?

I took the picture of the sanctuary at Holy Cross last week, after the last of the Advent decorations went up. Light, dark, luminarias on the chancel, and the Creche. These elements are the reason I go to church.

Life is far from easy. The nights are cold right now, and I take note of the humanity huddled on the streets of our town. I have the privilege of knowing about so much of the struggle that people I know and serve as pastor are going through. There is grief, there is emptiness, there are feelings of failure, and fear for the future.

So I go to church. Because I have found people there to be trying hard to be real – not to hide behind busy-ness and noise – but to let the story of Christmas touch them. 

The story of Christmas includes a nation loved by God who had made all the mistakes in the book during their history, and suffered for each of them. That nation had people come from God for many years to tell them about God’s love, and about their own destructive natures. But God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in HIm will not perish but have eternal live.

Gave His Son. Only begotten. words we know, that sound like Church – like Christmas. But God did give His Son. All the prophets in the world didn’t help people draw near to God and feel His love enough to change their ways, and start caring for each other.

So a young girl gave birth, and the Holy Spirit made it happen. But her betrothed husband stood by her, and the two of them were a family. There, in Bethlehem, in a borrowed space they rested, and Mary gave birth. The baby was just a baby, and yet so different that angels sang. The angels told the shepherds, and they journeyed to see the baby, born to save them all. Some time later, magis from a thousand miles away came to see what they had learned about through watching the heavens – that the world had been changed by the birth of this child.

We’ll hear this story again in church this Sunday, at Holy Cross, with songs from the vocal choir, and music from the bell choir, and readings from God’s Bible. Touching these images, these ideas, these miraculous events, may be what we need to ground us in this life. To remember That God’s Love  is what makes us better people. May your experience with the Holy this Christmas draw your best selves to the surface. The world will be changed by it. Amen.

Reverend Patricia Hughes – Holy Cross Lutheran, 1998 Lansing Ave., NE, Salem, OR 97301. Worship on Sunday December 23, at 9:30 am. Monday, December 24th at 7 pm for Christmas Eve Carols, Communion and Candlelight.