Importance of Communion at Christmas

Importance of Communion at Christmas

One of my favorite communion moments came last year.

I was blessing the elements in a barn as the sky was slowly turning towards its dusky hues. There was a large gathering of people, larger than some had expected, and we were sitting on bales of hay and folding chairs, bundled in our warmest jackets. We had sung songs, lit candles, and celebrated how Jesus came to bring hope into the world.

It was Christmas Eve, and it was beautiful and holy.

Throughout my ministry, nothing has given me more joy as a pastor than to lead the congregation in the celebration of communion on Christmas Eve. It is a holy and sacred meal that connects us to the full ministry and life of Christ, and how we are to be transformed by his life at work in us. Is it appropriate, however, for Christmas Eve worship?

That is a conversation that is a relevant question for many in the church pews A lot of this deals with both the practical side of communion, as well as the lack of theological understanding of why communion is important in discipleship. While we read passages where regular celebration of communion is important to faith (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), we are still comfortable with an infrequent and, at times, haphazard celebration of this sacrament due to historical practices.

In the past, I’ve written on the importance of communion and how we should take it more frequently than we do. While I won’t repeat a lot of those arguments here, what this essay will focus on is the importance of communion on Christmas Eve. Continue reading “Importance of Communion at Christmas”

The Nativity: Angels

The Nativity: Angels

December is a season full of busyness. There is a lot going on, both at the church and in our lives, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas. It can be a stressful season even though we are seeking to announce a time of joy and hope. Maybe you’re like me and, as a result, you look for ways to bring a little laughter and fun into the month.

For the last few years, bringing in an element of laughter and fun during December has meant debating people on what constitutes a true Christmas movie. You may not know this, but people are really attached to their ideas of what counts as a Christmas movie and are willing to debate you nonstop on the topic. I’ve taken joy in putting up mock debates, especially on social media, about how I do not believe “Elf” is that funny or that “Die Hard” cannot count as a Christmas film. That last one really gets people going. Just because something takes place around Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. I’m sorry, John McClane.

I love these discussions, because I always laugh at where the conversation goes and the lengths people will undertake in order to convince me that Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.

If you’re wondering, it is not Christmas in my family until I have seen Clark Griswald have a major meltdown after receiving a 12-month subscription to the “jelly of the month” club. Nor is it Christmas until I’ve watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” True story: I’m the only person in our family who loves the movie. I cannot help its story of George Bailey as the down-on-his-luck family man who believes there is nothing for him in the world. That is until he encounters a unique individual by the name of Clarence. Continue reading “The Nativity: Angels”

A Place for You this Christmas

A Place for You this Christmas

On my desk there is a stack of invite cards for our upcoming special worship services. The cards are decked out in a beautiful array of seasonal colors with a wreath on one side. The words on the card strike me as a word of welcome. It says, “A place for you this Christmas.”

A place for you this Christmas. I love that phrase. At its core, the card offers a word of invitation and welcome and hospitality that gets to the heart of what it means to share God’s love. In response to our faith and in celebration of the birth of Jesus, we are called to make room for people so they may experience the hope of the Christ child.

It’s easier to say there is “a place for you this Christmas” in our places of worship. It is another thing, and much difficult, to live it out. To live out that there is “a place for you this Christmas” requires reflection upon what it means to welcome people and to understand that it will mean making our welcome more than just words we place on a card or screen. To truly have “a place for you this Christmas” means making a conscious choice to make room in our hearts for all to experience the hope of Christ.

So, what might that look like? Even more, I wonder what groups of people in our community need to know that there is “a place for you this Christmas.” Continue reading “A Place for You this Christmas”

The Nativity: Joseph

The Nativity: Joseph

Perhaps like many of you, we took time over the Thanksgiving weekend to decorate our home for the Christmas season. It began with my usual decorating the outside walkways with candy canes. It continued with putting up my beloved Christmas village. We put up our tree with ornaments we’ve collected over the years, and we put up our Nativity set.

We have several Nativity sets in our home and in my office. My favorite is actually the one that is not the most appealing. It is one that currently sits in my office. It is a small painted set that I got at a White Elephant Christmas party years ago. When it came to me and my turn to trade it or keep it, I actually went against the custom of trading and kept the set. Why? Because at the time I didn’t have a Nativity set of my own and it was quirky enough that I felt it and I would be a good match.

Nativity sets, no matter what they are or look like, are treasured decorations each Advent and Christmas season. They combine all the elements of the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke to give us an artistic rendering of the scene. The descriptions we have from Scripture do not take place with all the characters – Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds, angels, and the Magi –being there together at the same time. So, there is artistic liberty taking place in many of our sets, and we can appreciate how they invite us to see things that are present within the stories that lead up to Jesus’ birth.

Throughout the Advent season, we are going to take a look at some of the characters that appear in our Nativity sets. We’ll share about their lives, how they came to be part of the story, and how they shape our understanding of Jesus’ birth and what it means for us today. Our journey beginswith the least known of the characters involved with Jesus’ birth Joseph. Continue reading “The Nativity: Joseph”

From Gratitude to Greed in 24 Hours

From Gratitude to Greed in 24 Hours

On Thanksgiving, many of us will gather with family and friends around the dinner table. We’ll converse about politics (unfortunately). We’ll watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We’ll sleep through the football games. We’ll eat more than our fair share of turkey and stuffing.

At the same time, we’ll talk about how this day is about having a sense of gratitude for the things that we have in our lives. Thanksgiving, which historically dates back to the Pilgrims in the 17th Century, was created in order for us to reflect upon the things we have in our lives and to give thanks to God for those blessings, no matter how big or small they may be.

So, perhaps it is striking, and maybe even ironic, that Thanksgiving is also a day many will begin their Christmas shopping. Even before the dawn of Thanksgiving Day sales, families would camp outside of stores waiting for them to open for the best deals on a new television or some other item. We’ve all seen the images on television from Black Friday when an unsuspecting store clerk opens the doors only to be overwhelmed by a mass of shoppers looking for a deal.

Within a 24-hour period, we traverse a crazy journey of faith where we move from a posture of gratitude to that of greed. How do we get there so easily? Continue reading “From Gratitude to Greed in 24 Hours”

The Forgiving King

The Forgiving King

Last Sunday, I could not get home from worship fast enough. I had to get to my recliner, turn on my tablet, and open up Netflix. Why? Because the show “The Crown” had returned.

“The Crown” provides a dramatic telling of the Windsor family, focusing on the rise and reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Each season is its own decade, which is why there is a need for new lead actors and actresses every two seasons. The show tells the story of what many of us are fascinated with – the glitz and glamour of the Royal Family and its unusual family drama.

For many of us, the Royal Family is our only interaction with the idea of monarchy. What we see is the image of celebrity and ceremony. Yet we are captivated by it. That captivation is why 750 million people watched Prince Charles marry Diana in 1981.  It is why an estimated 2.5 billion people watched Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997. It is why more than 100 million watched William and Kate’s wedding in 2011. As a point of reference, 98.2 million watched the Super Bowl in February.

We’re fascinated with the idea of monarchy and kingship, but that fascination hinders us on a day like today. This is Christ the King Sunday. It is the final Sunday of the Christian year and one that is particularly important for our life of discipleship. This is a day to celebrate that Jesus is our King and Lord.

What does that mean? Continue reading “The Forgiving King”