Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week of Advent 4
December 20, 2015
And the Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:14)
The Vicar’s sermon today got me thinking about Christmas movies. We all have our collection of “have to see movies” without which, the season seems incomplete. I have many that are the same as yours. Everyone watches “It’s a Wonderful Life” cause … well … where else will you hear “Buffalo Gal” sung in a movie these days? “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is also on the list for many of us, because it is just the stupidest funny ever, and Audrey’s eyes being frozen open makes me pee myself. I guess I am accompanied by many who watch “A Christmas Carol,” but we may like different versions. The 1984 version with George C. Scott is my favorite. But the movie I watch two or three times each season is “The Family Stone.” It makes me cry, it makes me laugh. The ensemble cast of A-list actors makes the family dinner table and game of charades scenes remarkably real … and dysfunctional. And then, just when you think it will end with the usual sickly sweet “all loose ends tied up” kind of closing, it surprises you with a bittersweet resolution that is both painful and beautiful.
And that is where this week’s devotional time finds me … in a spirit that is painfully beautiful and beautifully painful. Admittedly, it is also shaped by tonight’s Darkest Night Service from which I returned a couple of hours ago. Just a dozen … a dozen-and-a-half of us who gathered, each one bearing a grief that doesn’t fit well in this season of joy. But beyond tonight’s worship catalyst for my grief, does not the Christmas season also invite this kind of schizophrenic spirituality? A cute baby in a manger … but a baby who will be on the run before long with his parents, while Herod the Great seeks his life. A child born from the line of King David … but whose very existence will shake the foundations of that David nation. And the most familiar paradox of them all … a child who is born to die. Is not the beauty and power of the Christmas story the core premise that God steps into our darkness with a light that outshines it? That God reaches into the deepest wells of our hurt, and embraces that hurt through the Crucifixion, so as to destroy it with new life in the Kingdom of God? That God does battle with sin and evil in the world, so as to conquer it with the kind of love Jesus embodies? Of course it is. It just doesn’t play nicely on the Hallmark Channel … or the Precious Moments Commemorative Nativity Set … or the Muppets Christmas Special. Our fondness for these seasonal distractions are harmless enough. But don’t allow yourself to be misled by our culture which has neutered the Christmas story, and made of it a two-dimension story of cuteness and sentimental love. This is a potent universal transformation of how God does “God.”
So pray for God’s potency to transform your life this Christmas season. It’s gotta be better than “Merry Matrimony” and “A Cookie Cutter Christmas” offerings on the Hallmark Channel, right?
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled, Within my heart, that it may be, A quiet chamber kept for Thee. My heart for very joy doth leap, My lips no more can silence keep, I too must sing, with joyful tongue, That sweetest ancient song, Glory to God in highest heaven, Who unto man His Son hath given. While angels sing with pious mirth. A glad new year to all the earth!
~~ Martin Luther Christmas Dinner Prayer