I always look forward to Christmas Eve and the days following, because that’s when Christmas really begins, for me. As fast as the commercial Christmas season begins, sometime after Halloween, it ends abruptly following Christmas day. The retail stores start preparing for the next season; the radio and TV stations back off on Christmas like it’s all over, a distant memory. Everyone has had it with parties and sweets and social obligations. That’s why my birthday always seemed so anticlimactic (December 27). “It’s time to get back to reality, whatever we make of that, and put this long, dragged out, season behind us.”
This begins the holy-days, for me. I love this inbetween time during the twelve days. Nothing is going on, no special worship services, or social obligations, and if you don’t pay much attention to the New Year, this can be a quiet time of reflection and rest. I’ll listen to WJNJ while driving along, in the car (88.9 or close to that: the radio station of the Roman Catholic Diocese) They play some wonderful, classic and other Christmas hymns and songs that help all listeners to dwell on the meaning of this season.
For people of the Christian faith, the commercialization of Christmas obscures the meaning of our tradition. Simply put, the birth of Jesus is remembered and embraced as God coming into our realm, our earth, to bring the good news of God’s intention to be reconciled with all the peoples, all the cultures and traditions, including all of creation. In Jesus the Christ, God dwelt among the people of Israel, not with overwhelming or impressive force but with overwhelming and extravagant love. What the world judges as weakness and foolishness is just how God will, in God’s good time, bring all things to completion for:
“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus who became for us the wisdom from God…(1 Corinthians 1:27-30).
Looking ahead, I encourage everyone to set aside January 23, at 6:00 p.m. for an evening of food (pot-luck) fellowship and discovery. The discovery part is called the “Three Colors of Ministry.” This is really an opportunity to discover your own spiritual type that has been given to you from birth. The three colors refer to the Father (green), the Son (red), and the Holy Spirit (blue). Everyone is usually drawn to one color or something in-between: this, you will discover by taking a very brief survey.
The colors are associated with certain biblical characters, e.g., Peter, Paul, Moses, Jonah (that was mine), Mary or Martha. All of them and us have spiritual leanings that will resemble one of or a combination of characters.
Your eyes will be opened, not only to your character but to others as they gather around tables to compare notes on why they have landed where they are. This exercise can be hilarious, at times, but, more importantly, it provides the possibility of receiving a deeply meaningful insight for you in your relationship with the Three-In-One God. This exercise will lead you to recognize that everyone in the Christian faith may be somewhat like you or not at all like you, but somehow, by God’s grace, we all belong together. We belong to the family of God.
In a way, this is a game, games are fun when you play; they are a little fun when you watch. By playing this game with your brothers and sisters, you may grow personally and relationally with others and with God. This evening of discovery and fun will help us prepare to discover our spiritual gifts (EVERYONE HAS ONE OR MORE) that we will be able to apply, with joy, to the ministry of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church. The Spiritual Gifts discovery will take place at a later date to be announced. In the meanwhile, be at peace with yourself, with your family members, with your neighbors and with God.
Pastor Carl Franson