The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Christmas is one of those seasons when memory and hope collide. How well I remember memorizing and speaking the angel’s prayer at the close of the church Christmas program when I was in eighth grade. It was my first time leading a congregation in worship. Dressed in a costume made from a bedsheet with a tinsel halo on my head, I sensed that holy words were part of God’s holy work even among a cast of restless teenagers.
Like you, as Christmas comes I always pray for hope to be renewed in every place where people are brokenhearted, made weary by violence, or diminished by hunger or homelessness. This year I am giving gifts to address some of the immediate needs of refugees, knowing that far too many of our neighbors around the globe lack the basics of a safe and settled home. I’ll bet you are finding ways to extend your gift giving to those with greatest needs, too.
Those memories of long ago Christmas pageants and family gatherings remind us that love endures from year to year. New relationships, babies born into our families or circle of friends, and fresh ways of celebrating Christmas by reaching out to neighbors fill us with hope for the year ahead. But even deeper than our memories and more enduring that our high hopes is God’s work in this and every season.
Long before the world was adrift in violence and despair, God decided to dwell among us human folk. The birth at Bethlehem was not a last-ditch effort to rescue the human race. The birth of Jesus those many years ago was a revelation that nothing – not hard times nor bad behavior – could keep God away from us.
I no longer remember the words I prayed in eighth grade but I wonder if they might have sounded something like this: Gracious God, as the time of preparation expires and we are aware of all we have not finished, bless us with your loving presence. Open our hearts to receive the good gift of Jesus Christ, born among us, because you are a God of love and not a one of us is ever outside the reach of your peace, your joy, your hope. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
May the joy of Christmas abound in you!
Patricia Lull, Bishop