The Joy of Christmas

“How can we break bread and share the cup over the phone?” When I finished seminary 38 years ago, it was not possible for Presbyterians to imagine celebrating the Sacrament virtually. The first Sunday I celebrated the Lord’s Supper by teleconference with the First United Church congregation, I only had Wheat Thins and lemonade at the apartment. But the beauty of that moment was that God was there. Christ was present with us.

I invited fellow worshipers to imagine they were seated in their Sanctuary. “Close your eyes. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look up at the choir. Call out the names of those you see.” After a moment, they began to name members of their church family, people whom they were seeing with their mind’s eye. People who were together with them at the Lord’s Table even though a pandemic was trying to keep them apart.

We realized that, in Christ’s presence, we are able to be present with one another. And though 2020 is a year that many of us are rushing to see in the rearview mirror, we have been present with one another because Christ draws us together.

Sunday after Sunday I have heard or seen, as I Zoom around the presbytery, Christians loving one another, reaching out to one another, touching one another spiritually while yearning to do so in person. You have touched my heart and have been a blessing beyond words. It is such a joy to live and work among you, my dear POJ family.

Christmas draws near. For some, the void caused by the death of a loved one from the coronavirus or an accident or a suicide or a natural dying process—the void is real and deep and sad. We need to name our pain and ask the Divine Healer to touch our hearts with peace that passes all human understanding.

Christmas draws near. I invite you to close your eyes and return to your Sanctuary, your sacred space. Imagine that it is Christmas Eve and the service is drawing to a close. The lights are dimmed as the candles of worshipers are lit from the flame of the Christ Candle.

As the room begins to brighten, look to your left. Look to your right. Look up to the choir. Who do you see? Who is standing near you? Who has gathered with you to celebrate the birth of the Christ child? Your mother? Your father? Your spouse? Your child? Your sister? Your brother? Your grandparent? Your grandchild? Your neighbor? Your lifelong friend? Someone living? Someone who is deceased, who rests from life’s labor in the arms of our Loving Lord?

It has been a hard year. But God has been with us and all whom God loves. God has taught us that the joy of Christmas is found in the truth that God came down to live among us—to teach us how to live, how to love, how to serve. With images of fellow worshipers in our mind’s eye, join me in singing the final verse of “Silent Night.”

Silent night, holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born.

Friends, have a safe and sacred Christmas. God bless you all.

In Christ’s Service,

Fred A. Holbrook
Interim General Presbyter & Stated Clerk

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