Word for Word 12/5/18

Rev. Kim Gates
Rev. Kim Gates

The Christmas lights and décor are up outside and in - there are presents being purchased and put under the trees - there are concerts and parties - there are family gatherings and extra Church services. And we do all this because???? Well, tradition, of course! Hasn’t Christmas been celebrated since the very night Jesus was born? No, actually there is no mention of commemorating his birth whatsoever in our Biblical text. But isn’t that where all our “traditions” come from?! Alas, no again, most of our 21st Century celebrated Christian “traditions” are of human making.

So why do we do all the things we’ve come to cherish and enjoy? The reason SHOULD be the same reason our Hebrew forefathers had celebrations and festivals: to remember the mighty acts of God! Granted God directed the Hebrews to observe certain feasts - like Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, etc - but they were intended as annual reminders of actions God had performed for Israel and they involved sacrifices of varying types. We don’t sacrifice nuttin’ at Christmas!

Thus we need to keep at the heart of our Christmas festivities that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ - the Messiah - the Anointed One - the only perfect human being ever to walk the earth; a being that was also the only begotten Son of God and as such was the only One who could be the perfect sacrifice which would permanently put in place the forgiveness of human sins and a pathway to return to the Creator after earthly life is completed.

It is good that families come together at our Christmas celebrations so we can share the message of the Christ’s birth but Christmas is not about nuclear families! It is not about gift exchanges and “getting” things for Christmas. Christmas is about the birth of the human-divine child, Jesus of Nazareth: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It points to his actions in Jerusalem approximately 33 yrs later where he was crucified and resurrected! There’s the gift-giving: our redemption/salvation/deliverance given free of charge, a gift we could never purchase and can never repay or “exchange”!

A few years ago there was a devotional entitled, “Whose birthday is it anyway?” I challenge you to explore this question with your families as a way to bring the birth of Christ into “Christmas.” Whether we’re celebrating Jesus’ birth at the right time of year or not doesn’t matter, the point is to remember what the birth of Jesus means for the human race: forgiveness of sins & eternal life through a new covenant with God. To God be the glory for the great things God has done for us, God’s beloved human children!

May the heavenly host sing again their hallelujahs as they did to the shepherds and may you REMEMBER what the angel said: “…I am bringing you good news of great joy for ALL the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:9-14)

May you have a most blessed Christmas and New Year!

Rev. Kim A. Gates
Waukon St. Paul’s and Forest Mills United Methodist Churches


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