I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Not every Christmas is "perfect" and in fact it is sometimes the imperfections which are most memorable and meaningful. It some ways we had an unusual Christmas, but here are some excerpts and learnings from our Christmas this year.
- A funny moment: our grandson Austin has been learning the names of the characters in the Christmas story. He knows baby Jesus, of course, and he is learning about Mary and Joseph. On Christmas Eve their family attended a UM church in the Louisville area where they live, and my daughter reports that Austin quickly noticed the manger scene depicted on the front of the worship bulletin. While talking about each character, Austin noted that Joseph was holding a staff or walking stick, and he said in a loud voice for all their surrounding worshipers to hear and laugh: Joseph plays golf! It should be noted that Austin's father Adrian is a golfer and Austin plays with his own little plastic golf clubs, so of course it looked like Joseph was holding a golf club. I suspect every worshiper (and now you who are reading this) will look at the manger scene more carefully each time to see if Joseph has a 5 iron.
- A touching moment: on Christmas Day, Marsha and I joined my sister Bonnie and her husband, Dave, in visiting Dad in the dementia center where he now lives. Christmas in a dementia center is unusual, but I was touched as always by the kindness of the staff who work there. It is not an easy job, but they do it with great patience and they treat each resident with respect and care. As I watched those staff at work, I found myself thinking about all the people who work on Christmas in hospitals, nursing homes, emergency services, and public servants like police, fire, ambulance teams, and snowplow drivers. I was touched deeply to think how those persons serve - even on Christmas Day - in order to make life possible for the rest of us.
- A moment of generosity: on the 26th as the blizzard was blowing hard in Indianapolis, Bert Kite and David V.W. Owen showed up at our house to give me an appropriate but generous gift of a new snow blower. They had remembered my comment some days ago that I don't own a snow blower anymore, and they rushed out in the blizzard to purchase and deliver one to our home! Good friends and colleagues like that are quite a gift, and of course these days have given me plenty of practice using their gift.
- A delayed Christmas: due to extended family schedules and weather issues, we actually did not celebrate Christmas with our kids and grandkids until December 28th. What did we learn? Christmas on any day is a joy and a blessing, and spreading out Christmas over several days just makes it better. In the past we have rushed around to see family in a 36 hour period of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – and now I realize that a delayed or expanded Christmas can be its own blessing.
- Christmas in the midst of tragedy: Christmas 2012 was celebrated in the midst of too many tragedies. The shootings in Connecticut, the murder of firefighters in New York, the violence against Christians in their churches in Nigeria, and the on-going wars and conflicts in the Middle East all form a dramatic backdrop for hearing the Good News: Peace on earth. I join with all of you and all people of good will in praying that the message of peace, joy, salvation, and hope will triumph – even when we have an unusual Christmas like this year.