I have a lot of systematic theology swimming in my head about Christmas. I know, you're surprised, right? I tend to abstractions and have an appreciation for the transcendent. Emotionally, I feel connected to our fallen-ness yet inspired to hope by the living God who is revealed in the life of Jesus as revealed through the scriptures. I tend toward a "high Christology," and I love the opening of the Gospel of John, which talks about the eternal Word. I believe in the close presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I also embrace contradiction and mystery. I see no problem with God who created the Cosmos being also in intimate relationship with us. I am awed by victory coming through the cross.
I have to admit that pondering this pastoral letter to you all gave me a bit of vertigo thinking about relating all those things (and more) to an infant born in poverty in a world of struggle. There are many cliches to throw at the problem, but just because an idea is a cliche does not mean it's wrong. A mother's love is the biggest one this Christmas morning. The idea of an infant being helpless, and yet God at the same time is another. Christ the light of the world being born into the world's darkness is yet another. Yes, I believe all those. Any one of these thoughts or ideas could be awe-inspiring. Where to begin? How to make it all relevant?
The idea of relevance gets me back to you, my friends. I know we all live lives of relative blessing. The U.S. has just over 4 percent of the world population and more than 35% of the world's wealth. It's easy to be comfortable and safe here. At the same time, our society still has those who have been left behind for many different reasons. As individuals in this congregation, each of us has a mix of complacency and compassion. We can be proud of the caring and real help that come out of this congregation in many forms. I see many who sacrificially give and give and give.
I also know many for whom Christmas is not all joy. Reminders abound for lost loved ones, and for many of us, this season is a season of busyness and distraction--for some, a welcome distraction from problems or grief, others wish for less distraction so we can focus on the meaning of the season. It's a difficult task to put into words, all the complexity and nuance of what Christmas means not only in systematic theology, but also in our lives--in each of our lives and in our collective lives as a community.
Cutting through it all, here's what I hope for each of you:
meaning and purpose, something to work for beyond yourself
relational intimacy, people who you love and who loves you back
knowledge of God and experience of God's love in your life
comfort where you need it
the opportunity to feel the immanent presence of the transcendent God
joy breaking through the fallen world
all things becoming joyfully new again.
I pray Christmas blessings for you and your families. I pray that you would have the joy of being Christmas blessings to each other. I pray that you would receive Christmas blessings from God. Amen.
Rejoice this Christmas Day,