My wife and I were shopping at Plow and Hearth on Nov. 10th, looking for birthday presents for our sister-in-law. As we shopped, we both noticed that the music playing in the store was Dean Martin singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, or as Deano sang it, “Rudy the Red-beaked Reindeer”. We both commented about how early this was, in our minds, for Christmas music.

It used to be, way back when I was young, that you didn’t play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, or at least until after Santa appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Then I got a job at Rose Records, and learned that the Christmas music arrived in – August – to be put out in September.

I overheard someone comment that we don’t even really bother to celebrate Thanksgiving anymore, it’s just Halloween, then – BOOM – Christmas. I hear folks talk about keeping Christ in Christmas, but I sometimes want to yell, how about keeping Christmas out of November!! (and yes, I’m writing this Christmas newsletter article in November – sigh).

So, let me say it right now – Merry Christmas!!!!! A Very Merry and Blessed Christmas to you all!!!!! May the light of the newborn Christ fill your hearts and your homes this holiday season, and may the gift of the Christ child be the most treasured gift you receive this Christmas.

Christmas is such a special time. It brings us together, as family and as friends. It opens our hearts to give and receive love in a way no other holiday can. It opens our eyes to see the need in the world and try to do something about it, in ways we would never consider the rest of the year. One of my most treasured Christmas memories in playing my trumpet, with two members of the Salvation Army (a captain on euphonium and his daughter on trumpet) at a CTA train station the week or so before Christmas. People literally shoved money into our kettle, and they did it happily, thanking us for our music, wishing us a Merry Christmas, and just radiating joy and fellowship. Let’s just say, that wasn’t normal Chicago commuter behavior the rest of the year.

Christmas does that to us. The joy of Christmas is real and palpable. You really can feel it. You really can experience it. It is a remarkable thing. And I don’t want any of that to stop. It’s just that, as we move into Christmas earlier and earlier, I fear we risk getting Christmas fatigue. We can’t sustain the joy and good well for two months. The songs get old. The trees become mere background. The decorations get tattered. The joy becomes forced. The holiday becomes an ordeal.

I wish we would be able to truly have time to prepare for Christmas, that we would have space to make our hearts and our lives ready to receive the joy, the gift of Christ, which is, of course, what Christmas should be mainly about. We need to remember why we have Christmas, why we bask in the light, sing with joy, reach out with love. It’s not because retail America declares it so, it’s because God has declared that a new thing needs to be done. It is because God is coming, it is because God is breaking into the mundane reality of our lives and our world, bringing the life and love of God to us in an actual person – a baby in a manger who will, out of love, become a man on a cross.

We need to get ready for something that amazing. We need to get ready to truly let the good news of God’s coming sink in fully. We need, not a little Christmas now, but a little Advent now. A little time, each day, to remember our need for God to come, to remember why God comes, to remember the outrageous act of unprecedented love God is doing in that little town of Bethlehem.

My fear is by making Christmas the reply to Halloween, we make Christmas trivial, just another excuse to give gifts and have parties. I want Christmas to be the holy blessing God intends it to be. We need to remember, and make ready, to receive the blessing, to be blessed in such a new and eternal way.

Of course, we can’t stop the holiday rush, we can’t turn off the Hallmark Channel, we can’t shut off the music – at least not fully – but we can leave ourselves some time and space to remember that once we were lost in darkness but now the light of Christ is coming to light up ourselves and the whole world. We can get an Advent devotional book, we can light an Advent wreath, we can read the promises made so long ago, we can remember Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, as they learn firsthand just what God can really do.

We can take time each day to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths, light a candle, watch expectantly, and remind ourselves why we have Christmas in the first place.

Advent will be the focus of both our worship services on December 2nd and 9th and will continue to be the focus of the 8 AM worship on the 16th and the 23rd. Messenger will give us a taste of the holy day on the 16th at 10:15 AM, the Sunday School will tell us the story of Christmas on the 23rd at 10:15 AM, and all of us will gather to fully celebrate the birth of Jesus, the coming of Emmanuel, the joy of God coming to us as one of us, at 4 PM and 7 PM on the 24th, with Candlelight and Communion at both services. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!
Pr. Paul

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