No, no, that’s not a capitulation to a supposedly politically correct version of the war on Christmas. First of all, I don’t believe in such a thing. It is a conspiracy theory invented by certain news outlets designed to make people angry even during the season of Christmas. So, please join me in ignoring the false media claim that there is such a thing as a war on Christmas. And frankly, even if there was, Christmas would win.
No, I chose that title so that I could remind us all that this is an intense season of the year. It’s not just one holiday that we celebrate, but many. I’m writing this on the brink of Halloween, which is another event we sometimes get too excited about, I think. It is simply the night before All Saints Day, which is an important celebration in the life of the Church. It was also one of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley’s favorite celebrations. It is the reminder that the church is bigger than we can see with our eyes. It includes those who have gone before us. Some of those are the saints we read about in the Bible and in our church history books. Names that instill awe and strengthen our faith as we read their stories, the sacrifices made, the distances traveled, the words spoken, the acts of service performed; all of it stirs in us a sense of pride and a determination to stand in that tradition and serve with distinction. Especially since some of those saints we remember are a little closer to us in time. I remember my mom who was as saintly as they come, but was also very human and a constant reminder of the Spirit’s work with us all. And many others who are no longer with us on earth, but will always be with us in the great cloud of witnesses. All Saints is a reminder of the promise of eternity, not really an opportunity to be scared of death.
But that’s only the beginning of our holiday season. Before long we’ll be gathering for Thanksgiving in a variety of traditions and observances. While it is a national, and therefore secular, holiday, we in the church know what it is to live a life of gratitude. We rightly celebration an opportunity to be reminded that we are interwoven as a human community and give thanks for one another, even as we give thanks for the blessings of God. And to partake in the good things of this life with family and friends is a way to be reminded of a need to say thank you. And pass the potatoes.
Then, of course, we move toward Christmas. The Wal-marts of this world are reminding us already that Christmas is coming. But we in the church like to engage in a little bi-focal anticipation. By that I’m not referring to our failing eyesight, but to the call to keep our eyes on the coming horizon. Advent is not just a countdown to Christmas. It is a reminder that we are still waiting. Waiting for the kingdom, waiting for completion, waiting for the true Mass of Christ, when every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We don’t just look back; we look forward at the same time.
I love tradition and I love the Christmas story, and am more than willing to wish one and all a Merry Christmas. But I also want to invite everyone into a celebration of all the good things coming our way, all the opportunities to rejoice in the blessings of God. Plus, as one interested in living in community with others who claim a different faith, I want to celebrate their holidays too. Hanukah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Posadas Navidenas, St. Nicholas Day, Feast of the Holy Innocents …. Too many to mention. Why not bless those who worship in other ways? If we really believe in evangelism, in sharing our faith, we need to begin to understand the faith of others. Evangelism, my seminary professor said, begins with listening. Do you hear what I hear? Let’s conclude this eventful, sometimes troubling, sometimes blessed year of 2017, with an attitude of the joy of Christ. The One who came, the One who abides, and the One who comes. Happy holidays.
Shalom, Pastor Derek