Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What Makes It So Merry?

Christmas carols are an easy thing to dismiss. I’m kind of a scrooge and so I easily tire of Christmas tunes. There are a few advent songs I love (“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”) and I’m a sucker for any Charles Wesley hymn so I’m always up for “Hark the Herald,” but last night something happened. At the Christmas Eve service at our church we sang a verse to a particular song that I hadn’t heard before (the verse). I don’t know why, but I just hadn’t.

Now, I’m not a scrooge because I don’t like Christmas, I just don’t like the busy-ness. This is actually, theologically, my favorite time of the year. This is when we celebrate the Incarnation. After all, Athanasius said, “God was made man, that man might be made [like] god.” All of salvation begins with a crying baby. But, I tire of all the commerce and materialism (easy for me to say, of course) that I’m just as guilty of as anyone else.

But this year was different. While singing “O Holy Night” we actually sang the last verse. I’ve never heard that verse before. I don’t remember singing it as a child or growing up. As an adult even when caroling we only sing the first verse if at all. The words were written (translated) by John S. Dwight well over a hundred years ago. Dwight was born in Boston and is buried there in Forest Hills Cemetery. Considering all of this, here is the part of the third verse that truly brought me into the presence of Christ this year:

Truly he taught us to love one another;
his law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

That is the power of Jesus Christ. That by his name every knee shall bow and tongue confess, oh, and don’t forget that slaves will be free and all oppression shall cease. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. This is what makes Christmas truly merry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Surprises

I love Christmas surprises. You know the ones I mean. They are the ones that give us a true understanding of grace. Good Christmas surprises teach us that stuff just isn’t all that important. Last week I got an email out of the blue from an old friend who just happened to remember me while he rummaged through an old box of toys. Ben then called me later in the day.

Ben and I were pretty much best friends. We would walk home from school together. We played GI Joe. We watched the GI Joe animated movie. We sneaked around as though we were some sort of Special Forces team shooting at cars with our toy assault rifles. I worked his paper route when he went on vacation. We even threw rocks at cars and then hid behind a fence at the church (don’t try that at home). Ben reminded me of a time over at Pierre Moran mall, across the street from my house. We ran into some bigger kids on skateboards. After we did something to annoy them, they chased us all around the mall. I hope there are more fun stories to remember as time goes by.

I love remembering people and the things we did in the past. I had a good childhood and so it’s easy. For some, I know, it’s not as easy. Have you ever received a call, visit, or letter from someone you’ve not heard from in a while? Do you have any good stories from your childhood?