Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by Christmas? Do the preparations for Christmas drain your energy in the season of joy? Are the expectations for Christmas unrealistic and, therefore, disheartening or even depressing at times? Instead of longing for a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, do you just wish at times that Christmas were done and over?
According to the Christmas angel Christmas is a time of “great joy . . . for all people”. (Luke 2:10) But the hectic nature of the way we observe Christmas can steal the joy, and can cause us to even miss the birth of Jesus. However, sometimes children can point us to the joy of the season, in spite of all the expectations and preparations, in spite of the hectic busy-ness.
Last week was one of those busy weeks of preparation for Christmas. We started Advent worship and Advent meals last Wednesday evening. Our family cut our Christmas tree in our annual outing on Saturday. Sunday afternoon a group from church went Christmas caroling, bringing the good news of Jesus to some of our elderly members. Then the Mat-Su Chorus presented a Christmas concert later that afternoon at St. John. Christmas busy-ness was rampant. But, in the middle of all these “Christmas activities” the children of St. John broke through it all to bring joy to me and to others. The Sunday School Christmas program was presented in late worship. What a program!
Seeing 20 children up front in the church, singing Christmas songs is a joyful sight all by itself. I was also delighted to see other children reading the Christmas story, and acting it out. And, as is often the case, there were some special moments in this year’s program. When the angel Gabriel tells Mary and tells Joseph good news about the birth of Jesus, and when the answer is a simple, “Okay,” there are laughs. When King Herod is a young girl, not a young boy, and then Herod throws a fit when he / she is tricked by the wise men, that’s pretty funny. When Herod dies and is carried out of the church across the shoulder of another Sunday School student, well, that’s something I’ve never seen before! And when the characters walk out of church at the end of the program and a “Christmas chicken” walks out with them, that’s definitely a different touch. The smiles on the faces of the children and the bounce in their steps told us the joy of the Christmas message had gotten through to them. The joy of the children got through to me, and I believe to others as well. At least the comments of fellow congregation members indicated that joy to me.
Isaiah prophesied the radical changes the Messiah would make in the world, as he wrote the prophesy of chapter 11.
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD-- 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. 6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:1-6)
The change Jesus the Messiah would bring is not so much in outward actions. The changes that Jesus brought are found in the relationship of people to their Creator and Lord. And, I am convinced that it is not an accident that God Himself came in humility as a child. Children can have a one-track mind when confronted with the unusual and the special. So the special, unusual joy of Christmas holds the focus of these children. No wonder we are told, “and a little child will lead them.”
And, no wonder Jesus told the disciples. “"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:14-15) We can learn a lot from children about believing in God’s Christmas love, and about receiving the joy of God’s greatest gift.
When a young, female, King Herod is thrown across the shoulders of another Sunday School student and carried out of the church, it does more than cause laughter. The joy of the children presenting the Christmas story shows how unusual, how special, how wonderful, and life-saving God’s love for us in Jesus is.
I pray you get to hear some children sing Christmas songs. And, maybe “the Christmas chicken” will bring a smile to your face as you remember the joyful love of God. Surely, the baby Jesus in a manger is meant to show the love of God for His people, and the joy of that love.
A Child of God, Thankful for Little Children Who Know the Joy of Christmas,
P.S. I’ll share pictures from some of the many “Christmas Activities” of the past week.
· Here are some pictures from this year’s Sunday School Christmas Program.
· Here are a few pictures from Last Week’s Advent Meal.
Here are some pictures from this year’s Christmas Caroling.
· Here are some pictures of our Rockey Family Christmas Tree Outing.
P.P.S. I did go ice fishing Monday. The wind was blowing, but I went west where it did not blow as badly. However, the dogs got cold. Anyway, I caught two nice rainbow trout. Here are some pictures.
P.P.P.S. Ethan now has a new Alaskan phone number. You might want to put this in your records: 907-982-2074.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.