On finding the Gospel in Christmas
December 11, 2008 § 6 Comments
I’m sure you’re not surprised to read that for pastors Christmas is a mixed bag. We live in this world of ministry and people, and whenever the two come together there exists a whole array of intertwined variables of human experiences. The continuum spans from unspeakable joy to insufferable sorrow. Sadly, more than 25 years of ministry have taught me that brokenness and pain don’t take a Christmas break. Families still fall apart. People still die. Jobs are lost. Sorrow, like joy, has a way of letting itself in. There are always people who grieve as others celebrate the season.
In some way it is the deepest of privileges for a pastor to be able to share the sorrows of the brokenhearted at Christmas. We are called to embrace and live out the Incarnation (a word that means being ‘in the flesh’) of Jesus as we touch those God has put under our care. But it is hard. We love the season and concurrently ‘feel’ the pain of those who suffer in it – and somehow we are called to help folks find the Gospel in Christmas.
I am the product of a family and home that loved Christmas and celebrated it to the fullest. My 79 year-old Mother left an excited voice message the other day informing us that she had gotten the Christmas decorations up in her home (I’m still tempted to say, ‘our home’). I remember our family loading into our new sleek, metallic blue 1966 Chevrolet Impala station-wagon for the purpose of driving through neighborhoods to see the lights on homes throughout the City (more on that Impala in another post). Mom had the holiday music playing from Thanksgiving Day, on. Dad was on the ladder hanging the lights. Finding the tree was a rite we embraced. Having upwards of one hundred people in our home on Christmas Day was part of our ‘Big Fat Armenian Wedding’ state-of-being. Our High School friends always found a way to get to that gathering.
Men played backgammon and watched sports. Music blared. Women sat and talked and laughed. Children ran around the yard and house and played with new toys. Cars came and went as though we were the one department store open on Christmas Day. And late that night our family enjoyed cleaning up. One of us always ended up flapping tablecloths with residue rice pilaf in the side yard, in the dark.
And we knew the ‘why’ of Christmas. Somehow presents and Santa and lights and bulbs didn’t divert us from Jesus – our parents deserve the credit – they helped us find the Gospel in the Christmas Story.
Years ago, a young entrepreneur named Juan – a man who attended our church in Miami – became a Christ-follower. Each year after, during one of our Christmas Eve Services, I handed him an envelope with a short explanation of some particular facet of the Christmas narrative, and how it related to the Gospel. He would then read it to his family later that evening, as he guided them in finding the Gospel in Christmas.
Actually what makes this possible is that first Christmas – the fulfillment of an eternally mapped out plan of God to redeem His people. In fact, the real story is that in Jesus, the Gospel finds us. We begin a search because we are unfinished, and somehow God’s Spirit makes us restless until we discover that He who was ‘born to us’ had been born in us.
This is Good News.