This Christmas we’re in a new home. We just moved our stuff into it a week ago today but it’s coming together well, largely due to the amazing organizational skills of my wife. Our Christmas tree went up on the evening before the first night that we slept in our new house and Debra has put up minimal Christmas decorations; the combination of the chaos that accompanies moving and the short time between our moving in and the coming of Christmas made the full treatment, which in our case is usually vast, impractical. Still, the Christmas spirit is there.
This Christmas we’re in a new church. That’s because I have a new ministry position as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald. Tonight we will celebrate the coming of the Christ child at our first Christmas Eve service in Fitzgerald. I am told that the service is much-anticipated and well-attended and I am looking forward to it. The one addition I have made to the service here is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, something that I have been having as a part of Christmas Eve services for years. It is helpful and necessary, I believe, to remember that the baby in the manger grew up to be the man on the cross. Immanuel—“God with us”—ultimately means that Christ suffers and dies for us and so we remember at Christmas not only his birth but also his death.
This Christmas we’re in a good place. By that I mean that we’re in a good place as a family in the living of our lives. Sara has just finished the requirements for her degree at Mercer University and in January she will begin an eight month internship at Disney World in Orlando, an opportunity over which she and we are very excited. Joshua has just finished the first semester of his three-year MFA in Creative Writing program at Georgia College & State University and he is pleased with how it is going. We parents are pleased that our children are pleased with how their lives are going.
This Christmas we’re in an old story. It is the old story of, in the words of the old hymn, “Jesus and his mercy…Jesus and his love.” It is the old story of Mary and Joseph, of shepherds and wise men, of epiphany and wonder, and of life and death that I have heard and loved for my entire life. It is the old story of incarnation, of “veiled in flesh the God-head see,” of “the Word made flesh,” and of the Son of God becoming the baby in the manger. It is the old story of God loving the world—every person in the world—so much that God sent Jesus into the world that the world—including me—and you—might be saved. Yes, it’s an old story, but every time around the old story becomes new because it grabs us and startles us and amazes us and astounds us and reforms us and renews us. It is the old but ever new story of God with us and God for us that makes all the difference.
My hope for you is that this Christmas will be full of joy and peace and wonder and love and grace—in other words, that it will be filled up with Christ.