We made it! We have negotiated two trips with Mary (Ein Karem and Bethlehem) and have walked the roads of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. We have seen the sights, including the altars built by the Patriarchs. And we have arrived in Bethlehem, to what was probably a cave for livestock in the back of Joseph's old homeplace. Here we see a familiar scene. There are animals. It would look and smell like a barn in our world. Sheep, goats and a cow or two might be munching hay. The light would be from lamps or candles. I'll bet Mary is reflecting on the sacrifice and inconvenience of obedience as she surveys the place where she will likely have her child ... Jesus. We made it ... but IT is just a beginning.
In the business of the holiday I think we all breathe a sigh of relief on Christmas Eve. Whether we are ready or not, Christmas Day is at hand. Whether we have done everything we wanted to do or got every gift we desired, Christmas is (as the Grinch said) "practically here!" We are planning the events of the day and I hope your plans include a time to go by your church and kneel in both thanks and remembrance at the altar. We will be able to do this from 5-7 pm and even have a special candlelight service at 7:05pm in the Sanctuary at Abbeville United Methodist. It will be a special time to celebrate with music and a short message the meaning of this day. Yes, Christmas is practically here.
But let's not forget a very important thing. Jesus is God's gift that keeps on giving from His birth to this very day. Jesus will give us guidance through this dark world as He speaks God's Word into the world. The Word did truly become flesh and dwell among us. He will inspire four Gospels which lead us every day. He will tell us hard truths about loving our enemies and how our first priority in all we do is to love God and people. He will plant the Church in the midst of an occupied nation in an obscure part of the world and that Church will cover the entire globe. He will, by His death, resurrection and ascension, do one more thing. He (as He tells us in the last few chapters of John) leaves us one very special gift ... His Spirit. He doesn't just walk among us and leave ... God lives in the hearts of people. He is truly "God with us."
Sunday, you might have seen His Spirit as our praise team battled sickness and sang their hearts out because God's Spirit was there. You might have seen the smiles and joy on the face of our choir at the second service as they sang past the franticness of the season to tell us God's message in song. I was sustained by that Spirit as I shared the message of life, death and resurrection with two families this week, sending their loved one into the hands of a good and perfect God. And on Christmas Eve, here in this little Sanctuary, we will count on God's Spirit to lead our worship. I hope you will be here ... because we should be eager to give thanks to God for His lasting and perfect gift of Jesus. Yes, we made it to the end of one journey but that journey begins another trip that starts in a manger and ends in eternity with a victorious Jesus in His everlasting kingdom. Randy