Faith Column: Making memories part of the reason for the season
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6, KJV).
When we hear the word Christmas, what images and thoughts are brought to mind? I often hear people talk of caroling, wonderful food around the table, family time together, obtaining and decorating a Christmas tree and the like. As a child in Heidelberg, Germany, I fondly remember the sounds of the church bells ringing at Christmas time; the sound was everywhere and absolutely beautiful. The sounds, smells and memories all meld into a feeling of Christmas being a wondrous time of year. Interestingly enough, my memories dealing with Christmas time do not revolve around what I received or gave as gifts, and, to be fair, other than perhaps a bicycle or train set, I can’t remember any of them.
The memories about giving that I do have about Christmas time all revolve around the love and giving of others. I do remember vividly when our family lived in Bloomington, Minnesota, of attending a midnight mass Christmas Eve service when it was snowing heavily and bitterly cold. During the service one of our parishioners quietly got up, put on his overcoat, hat and gloves and left, which I thought odd at the time since the service was still underway. When we left the service after midnight we found out why he had left, he had been clearing the snow and ice from every single car parked in the parking lot while we were still inside singing Christmas carols. I can’t tell you a thing about that Christmas dealing with what I ate, what presents I received, how beautifully our house was decorated or even what sermon was preached at our midnight mass. I can relate to you, however, the lesson I learned about love, about selfless giving and compassion for others.
That love is demonstrated to us in the Gospel of St. John, where Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3: 16 – 17, KJV). God sent His only Son, born of the Virgin Mary to be born for us in Bethlehem (Bet =house or home of, and Lechem=bread), the city of David, in fulfillment of the prophecies contained in the Law and the Prophets. This Son, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel (God is with us), the true Bread of life, whose birthday we commemorate this day came to us to define the true meaning of love. Jesus Christ was in the past, is in the present, and will be again at the Parousia when He comes in great glory to judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with His truth.
If I were to attempt to think of a concept that would truly commemorate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it would be that each of us find a way that we might provide a memory for another person in their lives of faith. If that memory could be one where self-emptying love is exemplified and compassion for our fellow human beings be fulfilled, then we would truly be honoring Him who loves us. I invite all to consider attending the church of their choice this Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, giving glory, laud and honor to Him who loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that none that believe in Him should perish, but have everlasting life.
Bain White, St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of GraceBain White, St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of GraceBain White, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of Grace
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