Tuesday, 29 December 2009 11:43

Christmas Eve Reflection 2009

Christmas Eve Reflection
By the Rev. Douglas M. Donley
December 24, 2009
University Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN

I love all of the lights, the decorations, the tree, the smells of Christmas.  I even like the snow, at least for a while.  I’m also glad that God invented Advil for when I have shoveled more than my share.  I also like sending and getting Christmas cards.  One of these days I will even sit down and read all of the letters included in those many cards or sent as e-mail attachments.  They often include pictures, a recounting of events and hopes for the future.

Chang Kiu and Insook Lee sent a card from Korea.  Here is a part of it:

“One of the dynamic events that happened to our family this year is our activities against the remodeling project by the Chuncheon City which is going to build a four-lane street that passes to our house.  We and many residents have to move out and find places to live within a year or two.  The project has much shortfalls and the way the City handles it seems not reasonable or justifiable because the street is right in front of an elementary school, threatening the safety of children.  So Chang Kiu carried out a one-man demonstration in front of City Hall several times.  So far we have been able to suspend the decision by the City Council by putting pressure on the Councilmen and women.  Our eventual goal is to force the mayor of Chuncheon to drop the project.  The latest one-man protest was on December 3, standing in front of the gate of City Hall from 8:30am-12:10pm, playing a harmonica…There are many reasons we are involved in the protest.  In addition to the educational issue, the compensation to the residents by the City is so small that many of them would not be able to find places to live.  Many of them are old with low or no income.  So somebody has to step up and raise the issues to the City for them.  We realized we could not simply turn our faces from their situations.  They say we are running a fight that we cannot win against the power of the government.  But we believe we have to win this fight.  We are going to a small Christmas party with our neighbors who came to us for help.  We will assure them that Jesus was born for the poor, oppressed, and despised.  We will assure them God is with is no matter what situation we are in.  And we will tell them that we have learned it from our good friends in Minnesota.”

As I look at the angels on this tree, I imagine at least one of them playing a harmonica.  And it got me to wonder, what if Jesus wrote a Christmas letter.  What would he say?  I imagine it would be something like this:

“Merry Christmas friends and family.  I wanted to take this opportunity like I do every year to give thanks to you for being a part of my life.  I’m still so happy that people remember my birthday after all these years.  I’m also glad you remember each other.  If I had a small part to do with that, then that’s all the better.

I’m encouraged to see how people are taking my words seriously these days.  After so many years of people misusing my words for their own personal agenda, I’m glad to see people looking at the disparity between rich and poor, the responsibility we all have for preserving the precious resources this world, and the fact that I welcomed everyone to the table.  I’m glad people are starting to take this seriously.

I wish there were more peace on earth and good will toward people.  I hear you singing about it and I so wish it were true in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, even some of the urban centers around the world.   I would never condone war and those who use my name to justify it are wrong.  Allah, God, Jehovah, me: we’re all against war and it breaks our hearts when wars are fought in our name.

Speaking of the different names of God, I don’t care if you say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or Salaam Aleikum, or Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings.  To each their own.  If it makes you more caring to say a generic greeting than by all means be more caring.  I have to shake my head when people talk about the “war on Christmas” as if it were a war on words.

Truth be told, the real war on Christmas is materialism.  We have somehow twisted my lowly birth in a cattle barn to a celebration of consumerism.  I worry that this causes more stress, more heartache, more debt than we really need.  If you really want to celebrate and honor my birthday, remember that I came into the world as a nobody.  I was easily ignored, like most people.  Remember the ones who are ignored.  Give them light and love and hope.  That is the best of Christmas gifts.

Find someone who needs a friend—who’s especially alone this Christmas.  Give them a call.   Remember that you don’t know who is alone or lonely or worried.  So be nice to everyone.  Everyone needs it.

Remember that people are stressed out.  Don’t add to the stress.  Do what you can to relieve the stress.  Be light and thankful.

Find someone that you have hurt and try to make amends.

Bring to mind someone who has hurt you.  Forgive them.

Remember that snow is a gift.  It relieves our drought. Farmers will be happy in the spring.  Remember that it’s a blanket for bulbs.  Make a snow angel.  Let the snow dance on your tongue and remember that this is a part of the cycle of life.  And remember this when you’re complaining about the heat in July.

Please drive safely.  Be considerate with the people at the airline counters.  They don’t make the policy.  A little patience goes a long way.

Give people gifts that truly need them.  I am so happy that your church gave so many gifts to people you didn’t even know during the season of Advent.  My heart gets all warm when I see people giving to strangers.  It means you’re taking my words seriously.  You’re taking your life seriously.

When you pray at Christmas dinner, remember those less fortunate.  Pray for those you don’t know, for those in special need known only to me.  I’ll take care of it on my end.  Your job is to remember.  Remember and commit yourself to making the world a bit better because of your presence.  If you do that, then I will have been born again.  What a great birthday present.

But most of all, honor Christmas by telling the story.  Sing some carols with some people that you love.  Embrace wonder.  Celebrate the holiness that is as close as your breath.  Light a candle in the dark.  Remind yourself and another that darkness is not the last word.  Remind people and yourself that a light shines as bright as it did over 2000 years ago.  May it shine brighter because it is in all of your hearts.  Who knows, wise ones may recognize that light in you like they did in me.

Finally, love one another, friends.  I’m glad I get to spend another Christmas with you.  I do so because I love you.

Merry Christmas.



PS.  I hope we’ll talk more this year.  I’ll try to keep in touch if you will.”