A full church with flowering poinsettias illuminated by flickering candlelight, echoing with a choir singing Christmas carols. Flawlessly-wrapped perfectly-chosen presents under a tastefully-decorated symmetrical tree. A long dinner-table filled with favorite foods, surrounded by partaking loved-ones, engaged in only kind conversation. A crisp silent night, shining with twinkling starlight and a nearly-full moon reflected off a pristine blanket of freshly-fallen snow.
With the possible exception for Texans of the last one, those picturesque phrases may describe an ideal Christmas. But, in many ways, they are ideals unachievable apart from our imaginations and the fictional representations of writers, illustrators, and Hollywood filmmakers.
Sometimes choirs do not form, or their members travel for the holidays. Presents do not fit or otherwise disappoint. Foods cool too quickly, and family-members inevitably quarrel. Clouds can hide the heavenly lights, and snow makes travel more difficult and dangerous.
Yet, no such dashed expectations touch the real essence of the Christmas season: celebrating the birth of God Himself in human flesh in order to die on the cross to save us from our sins (John 1:14; Matthew 1:21). Far greater than any of our disappointment is the great joy He brings by effecting peace on earth between God and all humankind (Luke 2:14)
Precisely because of our less-than-ideal brokenness Jesus the Christ came into this world and even early on Himself experienced less-than-ideal treatment, such as a lack of room for His birth (Luke 2:7) and a hasty exit from Bethlehem because of attempts to kill Him prematurely (Matthew 2:13-18). Yet such and worse treatment did not stop Him from—but, in fact, was a part of—His saving us who repent and believe. Our less-than-ideal holiday observances need not keep us from His joy and peace!
All are invited and welcome at Pilgrim, especially for both our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service of Readings and Hymns at 6:00 p.m. and our Christmas Day Divine Service at 10:00 a.m. Please join us, won’t you?
May God bless all of us both the remainder of this Advent season and the Twelve Days of the Christmas season that follow it!
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.