Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve!

Happy Christmas everyone! I hope you are getting to spend this holiday season with family and friends. And special greetings to everyone at First United Presbyterian! I realized that this is the first Christmas Eve in many years that I won't be playing trumpet, organ, or handbells as part of the service! (For those of you who are worried: following the Christmas morning service, I will be spending the day outside of Larne at the home of one of the families from EBM. I am quite excited to experience a Northern Ireland Christmas Dinner!!)

My week at EBM primarily involved delivering biscuit tins to some of the elderly women of the congregation. As part of delivering the tins, there was an expectation that it would be a pastoral-type visit. Little did I know though that what I at first viewed as an obligation would actually end up being a wonderful opportunity that I thoroughly enjoyed. Many of these women shared with me pieces of their life stories, including some reasons why Christmas-time is often a difficult time when they miss family members who are no longer living.
For everyone who are missing loved ones this year, may you still find some peace and happiness this Christmas.

For those of you who are lamenting the 'commercialism' of Christmas, keep in mind that December 25th was not really the day that Jesus was born. Most scholars would suggest that he would have been born sometime during September. So with that in mind, we can remember that as we sing "In the Bleak Midwinter" or "Still, still, still," these songs are all part of, in essence, a holiday that even from its beginning was a part of humanity's commercialism and need for ritual.
What is important is what we are celebrating, not really when or how we celebrate it. Here is something to help you reflect on that

Christmas Begins (by Howard Thurman)
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost... feed the hungry...
release the prisoner... rebuild nations...
bring peace among all people...
and to make music from the heart.

To conclude on a more lighthearted note though, here is a glimpse of what the Christmas season involves in the United Kingdom courtesy of the Vicar of Dibley. :)
(That is part 1 of 5; you should find the other four parts also listed on youtube.)

May you survive all of your Christmas dinners and much love to you this Christmas season.
In grace and peace from Northern Ireland. :)

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