A Message from Pastor Matt

December 5, 2017

Church News

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Christmas Eve was always a special time for me when I was a teenager.  Christmas vacation had started and there’d be no more school for almost two weeks.  I’d get off the bus knowing the dual sweetness of early dismissal and the Snickers bar that my bus driver always gave me and my classmates for a Christmas present.  It wouldn’t take me long to change out of my school duds and into my work clothes.  There were still a few hours of work to be done before my family and I would go to church.

Once at church, the real fun began.  My brother and I would acolyte, lighting in perfect unison the twin candelabra.  We would then join mom and dad in the choir loft and help sing three or four anthems.  One of my favorite anthems was one that we did year after year.  When I got old enough, I had the honor of doing the solo that started off the piece.  I was so nervous the first time I did it that I spent most of the afternoon practicing it before a rather disinterested audience of barn cats and polite, cud-chewing heifers.

I was really excited about the solo, not so much because I got to sing it, but because of what it said:

No golden carriage,

No bright toy,

No snowy bunting for one small boy,

No crimson roses, no marble chair,

Only the starlight on shining hair.

Now looking back, some 20 years now, I have to admit that “No Golden Carriage” was a sentimental little Christmas anthem.  My affection for it goes beyond the misty memory of late-night Christmas Eves spent among cows and mangers.  Despite the excitement of helping dad deliver a calf after our candlelight service, the underlying message of the anthem cuts deep beneath my agrarian sensibilities.  The simply stated fact of the Christmas story is that Jesus was born in a very simple and even disarming way.  His birth was anything but usual.  Mary didn’t hear the soft murmuring voice of her mother or a Hebrew midwife encouraging her.  “Breathe dear, you’re doing fine…you’re doing fine, you’ll be done soon.”  Jesus would not have the benefit of his parents’ careful preparations for his coming, no lovingly crafted cradle by his carpenter father, no familiar surroundings that spoke of home, let alone, golden carriages and bright toys.

Jesus’ birth was risky even by first century standards.  Imagine a newborn being laid in a crude, but very useful feed trough.  When we read the Christmas story, we should be tipped off about the kind of man Jesus would become and the kind of Savior whom we worship.  In our culture where our success is often measured by our economic success, it’s no surprise that a happy holiday is contingent upon the success of Walmart and Macy’s, rather than embracing the fact that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head.  The strength of the dollar and the daily mood swings of the financial markets really do affect us, that has been made abundantly clear over the past few years.   The simple notion of Jesus, whom we are to celebrate each day, living from day-to-day on the provision of God and others seems strange, and almost unreasonable to us modern-day, 401k watching believers.

I have to admit that I struggle with how to make sense of the life I’m living in contrast to Jesus’ life.  I don’t advocate choosing poverty over possessions; no I’m not doing that.  Rather, I’m pondering my own faith and how I can live more simply.  God has blessed me, and many of you, with many wonderful things.  The bottom line is, how can we use those blessings to create more blessings, rather than be owned by the stuff that we seek to possess?  I have been praying on this question for quite some time and I don’t have clear answers, except to believe that my life would be simpler if I’d let go of some of my stuff and focus on what I really need to be happy.  Christmas presents won’t get it done.

The details of Jesus’ birth and life challenge me to look at my own life differently.  As Christmas closes in on us, it’s easy to get caught up in the festive busyness, the planning, buying, and fretting over the details of our holiday plans.  Jesus did not know these things on that very first Christmas.  No, the miracle of his birth was found in the simplicity of life itself.  Living life is what God calls us to do.  My Christmas wish for you is that you may live your life in simple abundance, knowing that the same God that breathed life into Jesus’ lungs breathes life into you.

May God bless you in your breathing and in simply being.

Merry Christmas!

­Pastor Matt

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