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This Christmas is incredibly strange for me.

For the past ten years or more I’ve been a pastor during Christmas. Or at least an integral part of a church. When I first entered this process, back before I had taken my Local Pastor’s Licensing School, when I was still what we in United Methodist circles refer to as a “Candidate for Ministry,” the pastor of the church I was attending had a family emergency and was gone basically the entire month of December. There I was, a Candidate, just beginning the process, and I got the chance to preach for all of Advent.

Since then I’ve served three different churches as I navigated my way through the remainder of my undergraduate work and seminary.

Look, we’re an Easter people, no question. But I loves me some Christmas, and Advent is my favorite time of the Christian year. And so it’s been surpassingly strange to me this year, a pastor, assigned to a community… with no church to serve.

No Advent.

The photo above (photo credit to Joanna Kosinska) demonstrates how I feel pretty well. The tree is there, but undecorated. The star that tops the tree is still in the box. The Advent candles are there… unlit… The only thing that’s wrapped is the base of the unadorned tree.

Something is missing.

I’ve been to church throughout Advent (well, most weeks; this week kinda blew up, but that’s another story). I’ve worshipped. But it’s not the same, not for me, anyway. Not the same as leading worship, sharing that experience with God’s people in the special way a pastor lives in and with a community.

My family is traveling for Christmas this year. We’re going to visit my brother’s family in Pittsburgh for the holiday, and we’re excited for it. I figured we should take advantage of this while we can: this is the first Christmas Eve I haven’t had to work in a long, long time, and it’ll be the last maybe until the day I retire. So let’s go, let’s roll, let’s visit while we can!

But part of me is a little melancholy for that experience on Christmas Eve, when, as a pastor, I would get to remind the people that God chose this terrible, stinky, dirty, just nasty place to burst into the world and remind us of how much God loves us, how God will never forsake us. How we can trust God through anything, and in everything… How God will never let us down.

But if we think about it, “Something is missing” is pretty much the theme of Christmas.

28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 2

So I wrote this post about half a month ago. And then I went to update my blog… and the post got corrupted. This was about half of it, but the second half, well, there must have been some bad code inadvertently put in there, because it was a mess. I’m writing this now because I didn’t want the last thing anyone reading it might see to be a giant mess.

And it occurs to me that that is another theme of Christmas.

Because God wrote this beautiful story of grace and peace. And then humanity came along, and we screwed it all up. But God wasn’t willing to let the last thing, the screwed up messiness of humanity, be the last thing. And so Jesus came to re-write the human story, not into something new, but back into what God intended: a story of peace, and grace, and love.

I hope you had a merry Christmas, and I hope 2018 is full of love and blessings!

References   [ + ]

1. Luke 1:28-30, NRSV
2. Luke 1:28-30, NRSV