It is good to be reminded of all the aspects of life that we are thankful for. At our Thanksgiving table this year our family remembered the many changes that have come our way since our gathering just a year ago. I can recall at least six major changes in our extended family. Now, as we turn the corner toward Christmas it occurs to me that Jesus’ family underwent many similar changes. Scripture is full of travel and detours, of lives taking new directions with all the risk and uncertainty as ours. In such times I am thankful for the rhythm of our living. Christmas begins this annual journey of thanksgiving. At the very darkest time of year when the days are short and the nights long the very light of the world is born among us. Never underestimate the power of light to a people living in great darkness. This Christmas light is both a reminder of the hope of our faith and the warning of our days. We hope for a time when everyone will truly seek their neighbor’s good will before their own. At the same time God warns us of the folly of our constant striving for things to make us happy. We have a phrase in our home, “The best things in life aren’t things.” Indeed the best of life is embedded in our relationships with one another, through all the phases of our living; the good, the bad and, yes, the ugly as well. The difficulty that many of us have at Christmas is that we just don’t feel the joy. There is more pressure to perform, more stress to find the right gift, to have the perfect Christmas. Remember the first Christmas was a simple time and the best gift was the baby and his mother. The birth of each child is God’s opinion that life is good.
As a way of being mindful of all the emotions of this season we offer an evening open to the public upon the longest night of the year. This year it is Dec. 21. From 7-8 p.m. we will explore the feelings that we tend to avoid and seek the healing we all desire. Everyone is welcome to attend. There will be no offering taken, no pressure to conform, no judgments or expectations. In this “most wonderful time of the year” I need a place where I can be real with my sadness. Once I have the chance to remind myself that I am not everything everyone wants me to be, I can be who I really am with a joy that is genuine and lasting. With all the tragedies of this year past; of Newtown, Boston and so many other violent times, of rebuilding in the Philippines and seeking peace in every corner of the world, we come to Christmas. Let us do so not with the child like optimism of our more innocent years, but with the sheer knowledge and faith that the miracle of birth begins it all. That a child is born, and his destiny is to show us all the way of truth and grace that is our eternal reminder that life is good! I pray for you a joyous reminder this Christmas filled with the blessings of family and faith.
Pete Nelson is pastor of Carson Valley United Methodist Church.