Christmas is coming. Despite the events of this year, especially the pandemic, we receive the Good News that Jesus Christ will come once again as a baby born in a stable. Angels will pronounce that Good News to shepherds out in the field watching their flocks by night and wise men will follow the star to where they found the child Jesus and His mother.
As a child I couldn’t wait for Christmas, not just for toys and all the other things that make Christmas in this world special, but to hear again the story of love that came down from heaven to all people on Earth. My parents were active in church and so were my siblings and I. I loved to be part of the Christmas pageant and participate in all the activities available to us, which sadly will be missing in many churches this year because of COVID-19.
In the Old Testament we read the prophets’ words proclaiming that a Savior, a Messiah, would come and save the people from their sins.
In Isaiah 9:6 we read, “For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Jesus lived on this Earth for 33 years, preaching and teaching us how to live. There are ways to live up to the meaning of Christmas or for people to live its meaning year-round. It’s not just a day-long celebration or even a season-long celebration. The meaning of Christmas should be celebrated all year long. We celebrate Christmas when we hear stories of people recovering from addiction and finding a place of healing. We celebrate Christmas when we help a homeless person find food and shelter. We celebrate Christmas when we visit a friend in jail or take care of an elderly person who is lonely or in need of help.
The more we open our hearts to others, the more we ourselves change. We share in the love and joy of the holiday by sharing with others, reaching out to those in need as Jesus did when He walked this Earth as true God and true man.
In John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And He lives among us today, within the hearts of those who love him. This Christmas may we all not only decorate a Christmas tree, give and receive Christmas gifts, and be together with family, but may our hearts reach out to others who are not as fortunate as we are. May we let the love and light of Jesus shine in our world despite the pandemic, despite the wars, despite the evil that pervades. This is the message of Christmas: peace on Earth, goodwill to all.
(Carolyn Neighoff was ordained in 2014 after retiring from a career in education as a teacher, coach, and administrator. She has been the pastor of Water of Life Lutheran Church, Newcastle, for eight years, beginning with two years of lay ministry while completing her theology degree. Work with the homeless has been her passion from a young age. She serves on the boards of Stepping Stone Housing in Damariscotta and Bread of Life Ministries in Augusta.)