From Rev. Pat Kriss: Just Passing Through on Christmas
(Posted December 22, 2017)
"For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning--not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last."
-- Frederick Buechner, theologian, The Magnificent Defeat, 20th century
I think Frederick Buechner was right when he pointed out something very important for us to keep in mind at Christmas. While we tend to keep the image of Mary, Joseph, the Infant and the Shepherds rooted in a permanent place in our memory, the truth is that they were all “just passing through.” The only reason that they were in Bethlehem that night was to cooperate with the law, be counted for a census. But Bethlehem was not home. In fact, at that moment, no place had been settled as home for the family.
They were just passing through. On Christmas, in fact, WE humans are just passing through, on this journey we call life. Some of the little ones who will wiggle and squirm in the pews at our Christmas Eve service this Sunday night at 7 are just starting out. Others of us who will light our Christmas candles in the Sanctuary are much closer to the goal of home and, along the way, may have learned in our long lives that, at any point on the journey, home is where love and safety is. If we are fortunate to have our lives nourished by the thought and blessing of the man this tiny baby will become, then we have food enough for the journey.
Mary, Joseph and the baby are not done yet. Like so many lives, their trip will take them, deep in the darkness of the barren winter, toward encounters with evil powers that would do them wrong, on treks into foreign lands where the loneliness of being a stranger is palpable. But the only thing they had to sustain them was a stunning hope: they knew that they were making straight the way of the one who would challenge the concept that God’s kindness only shines on the powerful and wealthy.
The writer G.K. Chesterton was right. Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home. As I write this on the darkest day of the year, I do so with the knowledge that the Light will return to this tired planet, day by day. If I keep in mind that my task is to be the light bearer in the days ahead, then perhaps in our candlelight service, I will understand that, when we bring our light together in Christ’s name we can illuminate the world. This Christmas Eve I look forward to sharing His Light with you as we pass our candle flame. – Pastor Pat Kriss