PREACHER’S POST: When Christmas Needs An Encore

the_grinchTheodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a classic. The Grinch, a grouchy, solitary creature attempts to put an end to the Christmas hooey by stealing everything related to Christmas from the homes of the nearby town Whoville on Christmas Eve. Despite his stealing all the toys and Christmas goodies, the residents of Whoville proceed with their Christmas celebration, for as the people of Whoville demonstrated, Christmas isn’t about all the “stuff” of Christmas—it’s about the spirit of Christmas in our hearts. In the end, the Grinch’s heart responds to the joy and love and all is good and right in Whoville that Christmas night.

Like so many of the great children stories, the message is embedded in the wonderful cadence and illustrations of Dr. Seuss, which captures the hearts of children of all ages. Like Tracy’s Discovery Times on Sunday mornings at St. Andrew, the kid in me hears the truth that the adult in me often misses. I’m reminded of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, from his masterpiece A Christmas Carol. The Grinch was a cave-dwelling green monster, while Scrooge was a bitter old man whose hardened heart filled with memories of love lost, but both lived with hearts “two sizes too small.” The happy ending is that the residents of Whoville refused to let the Grinch steal their Christmas and sang in the midst of their loss, for Christmas wasn’t in the “stuff” of Christmas, but in the spirit of Christmas.   Consequently, the two questions I’m prompted to ask myself are:

  • What are the “Grinches in my life that can steal the joy and make my heart “two sizes too small”?

 

  • Who and what “sings” to my heart this time of year so that my heart grows three times larger?

So much of the promise of the Christmas season points to the “abundant” life Jesus promised. But the reality seems to fall short for too many of us too much of the time.  The thief (read the Grinch) comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness. (John 10:10) Even though for us this is the darkest time of year, we long for faith, hope, and love, and sense the truth of Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”

I used to believe if I could just control the “externals” of the Holiday season I’d connect with the promise. I no longer believe that. Externals can be a factor, but it is the internal processes which derail me. We give away so much of our power and control when we blame and scapegoat instead of honestly addressing the forces within us that do the real damage. For example, whether or not Jesus is a part of my Christmas celebration has little if anything to do with the culture around me opting for the “holiday” moniker as a more inclusive designation. When I grumble and grouch about what others are doing to my celebration, I’m the Grinch. When I rail against the commercialization of the season, and yet put my running shoes on so I can run as fast as everybody else in search of the best deal of the season, that’s just dishonest.

Even our traditions can derail our ability to enter into the season and behold the birth of our Lord and Savior. We can only live in the Christmas “present”. Trite but true. I cannot go back and relive Christmas 1960 and the wonder of being a nine year old kid with an erector set. Or go back to 1981 as a young dad staying up half the night to assemble a rocking horse for my four-year old daughter. Christmas 2016 will not be Christmas 2015. Surrendering my expectations opens me to the new thing God might be doing in my life.

God’s word to the Jews as they suffered exile in Babylon can be God’s word to me today:

I am God and always will be. No one can escape from my power; no one can change what I do.”  Israel’s holy God, the LORD who saves you, says, “To save you, I will send an army against Babylon; I will break down the city gates, and the shouts of her people will turn into crying.  I am the LORD, your holy God. I created you, Israel, and I am your king.”  Long ago the LORD made a road through the sea, a path through the swirling waters.  He led a mighty army to destruction, an army of chariots and horses. Down they fell, never to rise, snuffed out like the flame of a lamp! But the LORD says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago.  Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there. (Isaiah 43:13-19)

What’s the new thing God might be wanting to do in my life this Advent season…am I open to God’s possibilities or trapped in the ghost of Christmas past?

Here’s what I have on my desk…

A ST. ANDREW CHRISTMAS TRADITION!! . . . . .SIGN UP SUNDAY TO RING BELLS FOR F.I.S.H. . .

THERE ARE ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT – DON’T MISS OUT! Each year families and friends of St. Andrew ring the Christmas Bells at Lucky Market to benefit F.I.S.H.

HAVE FUN AND SUPPORT THIS LOCAL MINISTRY by signing up for a 2-hour shift on weekends, beginning on Friday, December 2nd. We are looking for two or more people per shift. It is a great way for you, your children, spouse and friends to share the Christmas Spirit! Grab a partner and sign-up on the board!

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING THE ST. ANDREW SHOEBOX MINISTRY! This year, our Shoeboxes are going to Sonoma County children who are in need. Your Shoebox gift is sure to put a smile on their faces and hope in their hearts! Shoeboxes should be returned to St. Andrew THIS Sunday, Nov. 27TH.

THE 2017 FLOWER CHART IS IN THE FELLOWSHIP HALL—COST IS $65.

Sign up early to get that special date. Sign up to—celebrate a birthday or anniversary, honor someone special, remember a loved one or just because you want to make a contribution for a floral arrangement that will bring pleasure to our church family. Simply write your name and phone number on the flower chart on the line by the date of your choice. Prior to your chosen Sunday, you will be sent a letter from the church office confirming your sign-up, a form to fill out specifying what you would like printed in the News and Notes, and a return envelope to mail the form and your check back to St. Andrew.

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