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Pastor’s Pen          December 23, 2015

                           Almost Merry Christmas

“Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:5-7

         The night before I went into labor with my first-born son, I went camping. In those days, I taught sixth grade, and also volunteered at the church to lead the high school youth group. We were scheduled to sleep out for the spring youth retreat, and it didn’t occur to me that babies don’t always arrive right on time. I had three more weeks to go, or so I thought. I wondered why I had trouble sleeping, not quite comfortable on the ground, and so I paced under a star-lit sky that late spring night, shocked to discover the next morning that my son was on his way. 

         Christmas is almost here. What is undone will soon have to be left undone. Christmas will come whether we are ready, or not. God appears as God will, like a thief in the night, at an unexpected hour. No doubt Mary anticipated arriving early in Bethlehem, well before her due date. I imagine she thought there would be an available room. But there may have been donkey trouble along the way, or Mary got sick and couldn’t travel as fast, or her mother Anne fussed too long over whether or not she was prepared for the delivery, or needed to finish knitting that blanket before she would let her go.

         At this moment, you may want to take a moment to discern what preparations remain essential to prepare for the birth of Jesus, and what things are merely important. What can wait until next week, and what has to be done right now?

Essential preparations include stopping to breathe, say a prayer or read the gospel of Luke. When babies are born, we bring food, so finish making whatever you are taking somewhere for someone to eat in the next 48 hours. If there are children, assemble whatever needs assembling. It always takes longer than you think. Check to make sure you have something to wear to church on Christmas Eve that doesn’t need to be picked up at the dry cleaners or need a button sewed. Look people in the eye all day and smile. It’s Christmas. These things are essential.

If, on the other hand, you were considering a camping trip, then perhaps that can wait. Christmas is coming, ready or not. Come Lord Jesus.

Prayer: God, help us to stop what we’re doing and remember that this is your show. Remind us that all this preparation is simply to recall what you have already done for us through Jesus, your own self birthed into our world to make all things new. Amen

God’s hope, peace, joy and love be with you,

Pastor Verlee A. Copeland