A lot of time, and probably some significant money, has been spent by countless churches over the last month or so on advertising, gimmicks (think Christmas selfies and hashtags), special musicians and food in order to attract the masses to one particular church over another. That’s a whole lot of focus on what, how, when and where.
Over the years, I’ve slowly come to believe that Christmas is about none of those things. It’s about the “who.” As I write out my sermon for Christmas Eve, I am acutely aware of who might be listening.
There will be the widower, who lost his wife unexpectedly around this time last year. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without her. There will be the first-time expecting parents. Mom can feel that little life forming inside of her and she is filled with joy as she softly sings “Silent Night” as she lights her candle. She has no idea that this might be the last time she gets to embrace a silent night of any kind for a very long time.
There will be the ever-faithful. Those whose names I know and whose hearts I know even better. We see each other every Sunday and they are the family with whom I regularly break bread. For them, this a family gathering and another opportunity to give thanks for our many blessings.
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And over in the back, there will be a young man who is dying from a drug addiction. He’ll come because he saw me officiate the funeral of a young woman who lost her life to heroin this year and figure that this might be a safe place and I might be a safe person. He’ll wonder if I see him. I will.
To my left will be a young family, with three squirmy kids. Dad will give them “the look.” You know “the look,” the one the says, “If you don’t sit down and suffer through this like the rest of us, there will be NO CHRISTMAS!”
I wish that Dad understood that little ones need to move because they listen more and absorb way more when they have the freedom to be themselves. I know because I have three kids of my own.
Don’t forget about the college student or young adult who has been cajoled into coming with the rest of the family because “it’s tradition.” The bad news is that I gave up long ago the idea that I needed to be trendy and hip in an effort to impress you.
The good news is that I promise that whatever I say is authentic, a word that carries so much meaning for you, but that you have yet to fully understand.
I might also get to see the principal of my daughter’s old elementary school, a fellow PTO mom, a family we met on the soccer fields, and maybe even the lady I invited at Hobby Lobby last week.
They won’t come because of a giveaway or an opportunity for social network worthy photos. They’ll come because of a relationship, the one that we’ve built together that lets them know that when they come into our church, they will be known and wanted.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be known and wanted? To be loved and to know that there is a purpose for us?
Christmas is about “the who.” It’s about Jesus — God with us. He knows us, wants us, loves us, and came to earth so that we would have purpose filled with a hope that we do not have to do this thing called “life” alone.
If you don’t have someplace to be tonight, come and be with us at Kirkwood. Our services are at 5:30 and 7:30.
It doesn’t matter who you are because the One who matters most is coming to be with all of us — yes, even you. Merry Christmas!