Featuring artwork by Brenna Hayden, daughter of Bob and Kathe, here's my annual Christmas letter to the people of God at St. John's Church:
In the adult Christian formation hour during Advent at St. John’s, we’ve been taking a new look at the greatest and most treasured stories in the world: The accounts of Jesus Christ’s birth in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
In the middle of our series, I remembered something I had wondered about in Sunday School all those years ago in Detroit. If everyone knew Jesus’s birth was such a big deal – if angelic hosts proclaimed it, if great men came from the East, if mighty King Herod himself tried to hunt Jesus down – why did they seem to forget all about it until his adult ministry began 30 years later?
Fr. Raymond Brown, a Roman Catholic scholar, has an answer. It’s the difference between amazement and faith. Luke writes that the people in Bethlehem “were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (NRSV 2:18-19).
Amazement comes easy. Think of all the times we say, “That’s amazing” or “That’s incredible.” Soon the world’s demands and distractions muffle our amazement. We go searching for the next big thing so we can be amazed again. So it was with the superstitious people of Jesus’s time. They were amazed, and they forgot. But Mary, in the depth of her faith and destiny, understood everything. Mary, whom the Church called God-Bearer, was memory-bearer as well.
May she be an example to us this Christmas as we are again amazed by the children’s voices, the beauty of the music and prayers and candlelight, the small miracle of reconnection with family and friends. We don’t really need the next big thing, because we have the biggest thing of all. So join us at St. John’s this Christmas – and bring a friend to church!
On Christmas Eve, we worship at 4 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The second service concludes about midnight. We offer a spoken service at 10 a.m. on Christmas Day. Directions and other details here.
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