Christmas Letter 2022

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                       December, 2022

 I have discovered something that I really like.  I am listening to it as I write this letter.  On YouTube they have piano jazz music mixes set in nostalgic cafes.  The one I am listening to right now is called “Winter Night at a Cozy Coffee Shop.”.  The description is: “A snowy winter evening outside the door of the cozy cafe, sipping a cup of hot coffee and melodious jazz tunes will make you forget all your fatigue after a long day.”  I’ve told my wife, “I want to live there.”  It is perfect.  I could watch or listen to these videos for hours. The coffee stays steamy, the music never stops, the snow outside the window keeps falling and it never accumulates, the candles flicker and never burn out, and the coziness never, ever diminishes.  But as much as I desire this “fatigue forgetting” place, it is not real.

  One thing I have noticed about these coffee shop utopias’ is that there are no people. The only real person is me.  But I am an observer only, viewing this relaxing environment from a distance.  I can neither tarnish it nor fully enter the scene. I began to wonder what would happen if people were added to these serene coffee shops.  What would happen?  People have a habit of doing one of two things.  The first is that they alter the atmosphere. People are loud, people are messy, and they are unpredictable.    The second is that they can enhance and make it beautiful.  Heartfelt compassionate conversations happen.  Smiles and laughs are shared.  Encouragement and love are given.  The reality of mixing these two things is that life happens.  It is good, it is bad and sometimes even ugly, but it also can be wonderfully beautiful.

 Sometimes I view the Christmas story from that outsider perspective.  I read the scripture and it is like a nativity set fresh out of the box.  It is the pure and pristine, untainted by the realities of the real people and real events. I am an observer.  But when the people are added you begin to see the rawness of the story.  The shame of a child being born out of wedlock. The anxiety of displacement.  The pain of childbirth. The grief of loss.  The fear and risks of the unknown.  The surprise of the miraculous.  The joy of new life.  Ultimately, it is the unfolding of the great story of our salvation and redemption.  The story is beautiful, mysterious, tragic, miraculous, and terrifying all at the same time. It is like your life.  It is like my life.  A jumbled mixing of realties.

 The older I get, life in all its beauty and pain still happens.  We have added new loss into our lives this year, with the passing of Jenn’s Dad. But at the same time, we have added new life, with the birth of a new grand daughter.  I can not believe how much she melts our hearts.  At Christmas we celebrate that God can take the disarray of life and make beautiful things.  Out of the calamity and confusion, God is keeping his promise that he will complete the work that He has begun in our lives and that in Christ all His promises are “Yes” and “Amen”. 

 As we ponder the Christmas story this season, may God help each of us realize we are more than observers in the amazing unfolding of His redemption plan that began that Holy night when Christ was born. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” His story is our story, as much as if we were indeed standing among the shepherds as they bowed down to worship our King laying in a manger.

Merry Christmas and God’s richest blessings in 2023.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor John, Jennifer, and Family.

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