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Pastor’s Newsletter Message – December 2016

~ And Dwelt Among Us~

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth;

and we have beheld his glory, as of the only Son of the Father.

John 1:14

Dear Members and Friends,

It’s the weekend before Christmas, and Bobby, in Boston, gets a call from his elderly father in Pittsburgh.  The father says, “Bobby, your mother’s making me crazy.  I’ve had six decades of picking up after her.  We’re getting a divorce.  Don’t try to talk us out of it.”  Dad hangs up, and Bobby immediately calls Geraldine, his older sister in Hong Kong, waking her from a dead sleep.  Within minutes, Geraldine—ever the older sister!—telephones their parents in Pittsburgh.  In a shrill, rushed voice she says, “Dad, you and mom have been together for sixty years!  How much time do you think you have left?  I will not let you waste your golden years in bitter legal battles.  I don’t care what the issue is, we WILL work it out.  Am I understood?  Don’t do a thing.  Bobby and I will both be there on the first flights we can catch.”  Geraldine hangs up.  The old man smiles at his wife and gently kisses her hand.  “Well, my love, looks like they’ll both be home for Christmas this year.”

At Christmastime, presence is so much more important than presents!  And that’s the beauty of the Christmas story.  In ancient times, when our ancestors gazed at the skies and pondered the hard  questions of life, when they were confronted with the mysteries of birth, and death, and illness, and wonder, they found their best comfort not in tales of conquest and glory, nor in lofty wisdom and rituals, but in a simple tale of divine presence: A disgraced pregnant maiden, a dreaming carpenter, an inglorious barnyard birth, and the earthy, simple claim that God is with us; God is among us; God is not far off where we couldn’t reach, but around us and within.  The message of Christmas is that God does not remain in remote majesty and splendor, but becomes present in all our human travail, sharing our indignities, and outrage, and shame.  God is present in all our laughter, and love, and in the satisfaction of a job well done.  God with us!  In that same old story, the angel names the child “Jesus,” which means “God saves.”  And how does God save?  By coming to us, being among us, walking beside us…and then commissioning us to go and do likewise.

There still aren’t many sure answers to the hard questions of life: when a nation stands bitterly divided, when the doctor’s news is bad, when the telephone rings in the middle of the night, when someone you love is angry, or bored, or scared, and you don’t know why.  We have no easy answers at times like these.  But we can do what God does in Jesus; we can show up in the flesh.  There’s a living presence that will not leave us or forsake us, come what may in the years ahead.  There’s a living presence that might just turn up on your doorstep with a casserole, for that’s one thing it means when we say that God comes to us in the flesh.  It’s called “incarnation,” this belief that God’s presence somehow flooded Jesus’ humanity, giving us a glimpse of a human life filled with the holy.   This is really what Christmas all comes down to: this belief that God enters into all the shame, and the blame, and the messiness of a beautiful and broken world.  God is not far, but near.  And we are called to be the same, getting our hands dirty, suffering with those who suffer, walking with the lonely.

And what does it all mean?  Well, it’s significant that we have Family Promise in our building right at Christmastime, isn’t it?  We’ll have homeless families in need of meals, hosts, and listening ears at a time when we celebrate God’s presence to us in Christ.  Incarnation means reaching out in love to the disadvantaged, the sick, the aged, the very young, the helpless, and the hopeless, the anxious, the sad, perhaps even the least powerful of all, the animals God created but who get no vote, the world with its forests, and its plant life, and its oceans!  Stand with them, for this is how God stands with humanity in Christ.  Merry Christmas to you, Bower Hill Church.  It’s a joy to be walking alongside you!

In Christ’s Peace,


PS: The Snyder Christmas Open House is back!  Saturday, December 3, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

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