I remember my favorite part of Christmas time was going to the airport to pick up my grandparents. I would fight to have the honor, and, though I do not remember, I probably would have thrown a tantrum if I had not! I remember there was a way that I could be close to my grandmother that I could not be with anyone else and for me that was what it was all about and I wanted every moment I could with them.
As I got older, circumstances what they were, I was able to see my grandparents often, up until I went into the ministry when my grandfather was both happy and sad, since he knew that this life was a great calling, but did not afford the luxury, as he put it, of visiting family. My Grandmother never really understood that, but she went along, relishing the moments we had together.
Saying that, it is hard for me to be too sad for her passing, since on one hand I know she is with the Lord and on the other I knew that her body was failing her to the extreme. However, still as we approach Christmas, I remember those journeys to the airport and that incredible excitement to receive that hug as they walked off the plane. It was an embrace of full love, so much so for the briefest moment, no matter what I was going through I would lose myself and just fell into the blissful state of love, not really caring about anything else.
I often think to myself about that embrace and wonder what it must have felt like for those who witnessed the coming of Christ. For better or worse, the Gospels are really devoid of emotional talk. Most of the emotions we ascribe to the nativity are embellishments on some simple descriptors. But I do not think that words, no matter how vivid, could ever come close to the real emotions that came in those situations, so we come back to our experiences and relate how we feel in similar times and presuppose them onto the stories we know.
This is not a bad thing! In fact it is a very good thing, and is at the heart of what it means to be a witness for God. The whole nativity story is merely a witness. In reality, it is not even that important of one; only two of the four gospels mention it and the letters don't even broach the birth. In fact, in the early church, Christmas was not even celebrated! Again, I do not say this to discount the holiday, but to lift up its importance of being about witnessing to the Birth of Christ, but more importantly, witnessing to the love God has for us.
This really becomes what the holiday of Christmas is about: how we witness to the Love of God. The catalyst and motivation is the remembrance that God so loved us that he gave us his son, but what we do with that is far more important in how we show grace and compassion. Moreover, how we witness and model God’s Love is the most powerful part of this holiday.
Last week, when I was pulling out my sweaters and found one that my Grandmother had given to me many years ago (someday it will fit again!) I started to think about the gifts that I had been given by that and realized that I could not recall more than a couple, but I will never forget that feeling of the embrace every time I saw them as a child, and I know that when my days here are ended too, I will once again feel that love in even a more powerful way.
I hope that you can join our many witnesses to the Love of God.
· The Traditional Service with a special Children’s Witness
· The Gathering for the O Antiphons
· The 7pm Christmas Eve Family Service
· The 11 pm Traditional Lessons and Carols.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen