Glimpses of Grace & Truth...Fellow UMC pastor, Ken, told how a young parishioner shows us the simple message of Christmas. Kimberly, age five, was very secretive about the part she was playing in her church’s Christmas program, but her mother was sure it was the main part.
When the big night finally came, as her parents watched for their “little star,” the kids one by one took their places. Shepherds fidgeting in one corner of the stage. Mary and Joseph standing solemnly behind the manger. Just off the stage stood three young wise men waiting impatiently. Then there was Kimberly sitting in a chair, quiet and confident, as the teacher read line after line of the Christmas story.
Then the teacher came to the part saying, “Mary and Joseph named the baby, Jesus. Then appeared a bright star over the stable.” This was obviously Kimberly’s cue because she got up from her chair, grabbed a small pole holding a large tin-foil star, walked behind Mary and Joseph and held the star up high for everyone to see.
When the narrator told about the shepherds coming, Kimberly jiggled the star up and down excitedly to show the three young shepherds where to come. When the next speaker mentioned the wise men coming from afar, Kimberly took a few steps toward them to show them the star and then her star led them to that same manger. Her excited eyes glowed as bright as that star. After the play and a nice Kool-Aid reception, Kimberly climbed in the back seat of the minivan and buckled her seat belt like a big girl. As mom and dad wondered about their daughter’s excitement, despite the fact that she had no lines, Kimberly confidently, and with great satisfaction, said, “I had the main part!” Mom, with a mother’s gracious curiosity, asked, “You did?” “Yes,” she said, “Because I showed everybody how to find Jesus!” Ken, like any pastor who reflects on Kimberly’s feelings, would agree that she did have the main part: she pointed others to Jesus.
In this first week of Advent, we’ll be pointing toward Jesus. To do this, we will blend together Advent’s anticipation/preparation and Christmas’ telling/retelling of Jesus coming/coming again. As we tell the story to celebrate Christ’s coming, I am excited that we will read about Christ’s birth but will also sing Christmas carols like Away in a Manger or What Child is This. But please remember that, during Advent, Christ’s Church sings “celebration” Carols (like Joy to the World) only if we also sing anticipation Carols of yearning like Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. We anticipate Christ’s coming so we remember that what our hearts truly yearn for is more than a box neatly wrapped and placed under the tree. Department stores play Christmas Carols because marketing tells us that good music makes us more compelled to buy. The Church plays/sings celebration Carols and Advent yearning Carols so we remember that Christmas’ greatest gift does not depend on your credit card limit.
So as we do things like “Hanging of the Greens” worship, we are living out God’s promises to our longings. In every Advent movement—from cooking or cleaning, to shopping and wrapping, and of course, decorating with real meaning—those movements are their best when they point others to Jesus. So whether you decorate in abundant detail or you place a single candle in a window, whether you have much to say, or you’re like Kimberly, cherishing movements without words, may your life show “everybody how to find Jesus.” We’ll see you Sunday. Hope you’ll bring a friend.
Gladly serving Christ alongside you: Ed, Will and the First UMC Family