In this season of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, may God make these fruits a reality in your life. Joyce and I wish for you a child-like spirit that is aglow with excitement and expectancy, a heart that overflows with an awareness of how much you are loved and how blessed it is to love, a joy that flows deep like a river, and a profound sense of Shalom—God’s gift of inner-connectedness, wholeness and tranquility. This is also a season when we rejoice over you—laity and clergy alike. Your commitment, selflessness, and hunger to be more like Him shine brighter than the lights on our trees and warm our hearts more than the glowing embers of our fireplaces. So, we wish for you a Christmas like the Shepherds experienced in Bethlehem and the Wise Men experienced when they gazed upon the Holy One.
Al and Joyce Gwinn
The North Carolina Conference Staff wishes you all a Merry Christmas!
“Christmas is not a day or a season, but a condition of heart and mind. If we love our neighbors as ourselves; if in our riches we are poor in spirit and in our poverty we are rich in grace; if our charity vaunteth not itself, but suffereth long and is kind; if when our brother asks for a loaf we give ourselves instead; if each day dawns in opportunity and sets in achievement, however small; then every day is Christ’s day and Christmas is always near.”
I love Christmas! I love the sights, the sounds, the smells of something good in the oven. I love the cards, the carols, and the crèche with shepherd boys and patient cows. I love the music, the magic, the mystery of God becoming flesh. I love the lights, the laughter, and the look on people’s faces when they stand before a lighted tree. I love the presents, the people, and the pressure to get things ready on time. I love the food, the frolic, the fun of keeping secrets and hiding gifts. I love Christmas!
It seems to me that Christmas really is the best time of the year. Most everything around gets a red bow tied with long streamers. Doorways are lighted with bright white lights so that a wreath may be seen from the road. Ordinary trees and shrubbery come alive with lighted color, branches draped with lights. We all try to make our surroundings and ourselves look a little better at Christmas: red jackets, vests, shiny clothes, and extra glitter.
It seems to me that Christmas brings out the best in most folks. Those who never entertain a thought for anyone else begin to think of what they can do for the mailman, the newspaper carrier, the family down the road who is having a hard time. People you haven’t heard from all year will take time to send you a card with a handwritten greeting inside. A lot of people smile more and shed a tear or two over things they’d never notice any other time of year. Our joys seem larger and our sorrows feel heavier at Christmas time. Perhaps this is why we seek out and plan parties, dinners, and get-togethers with other folks; we are able to share our joy, and the weight of our sorrows is lightened for a brief time. Some folks you never see around the church will turn up one Sunday or two during December to participate in hymn-singing and candle-lighting. Parents who take a lackadaisical approach to children’s activities will stop everything else to make sure their child is present for program/choir/pageant practice. Yes! Christmas brings out the best in most folks.
It seems to me that Christmas is God’s way to tenderizing us. When I see people who are constantly on the go, talking endlessly, stand in the cold, hushed in awe, before a live nativity scene; when I read that a doctor and hospital will donate their services so that a young man can have an operation enabling him to hear; when I see people who like bright lights and have forgotten how to cry hold a small, lighted candle and wipe their eyes while singing “Silent Night, Holy Night[‘; when I see whole families, who haven’t done much together all year, kneel at an old, wooden altar rail, hands out stretched to receive God’s grace upon life in the form of bread and juice, then I know that God is at work to soften up our tired, hard lives.
Oh, I know that at Christmas the days are still hard for many. Life can be difficult and people can be cruel. I know that colored lights and red bows and wreaths on doors do not mean that life inside that dwelling is a pretty as it appears. I know that when Christmas has passed, the music of bells and songs has ended, and the trash is hauled away, that people will say they are glad to “get back to normal”. But I love Christmas. I’m grateful that at least one month out of twelve God uses babies and sheep, red bows and pretty music, candles and cards, colored lights and laughter to soften us up. I’m grateful that God has carved out of every year a few special days to remind us of his intention for life – hope and love and joy and peace. I’m grateful that for a few days every year we are glad to be silent, to bend our knees before an altar, to bow our hearts and heads in adoration of the Christ rather than ourselves and our creations.
Christmas really is the best time of the year. It is God’s way of reaching His world and His creatures with the good news that life could be different from what we have made it. It is God’s way of giving us, his creatures, the gift that keeps on giving – Jesus the Christ. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. ( John 1:4-5) O yes! I love Christmas!
Reverend Judi J. Smith, Elizabeth UMC