"That's what Christmas is all about."
I often say, "I grew up as a heathen child." And that's pretty close to the truth...my parents did not go to church, there was no Bible in our house, and I was never baptized as a child. I did have lots of friends who were Christians and went to church, and my best friend was Roman Catholic, so I did have my share of "church experiences" along the way. I remember in 5th grade getting a Gideon New Testament Bible when they were handed out outside the elementary school. Believe it or not, I was actually pretty excited about that. One of my friends showed me where the Lord's Prayer was in Matthew's Gospel and from then on I kept that little red Bible in my nightstand, prayed that Lord's Prayer every night, and read the Bible regularly. I was drawn to it...drawn to the Word. Clearly the Holy Spirit had a hold on me and I didn't even know it. Whether we are aware of it or not, the Gospel comes to us, giving the Holy Spirit a chance to take hold. Yes, there were those random visits to churches with friends where I heard the Gospel. But the proclamation that this "heathen child" remembers best was from Charles Schulz's "Charlie Brown Christmas." It was that moment when Linus takes center stage, quoting Luke's Gospel version of the birth of Jesus, and then sums up his monologue at the end saying: "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." No matter how many times I heard Linus deliver that monologue, I knew in the depths of my soul it was the truth. Jesus was born, the Word became incarnate, so that God could reach every last one of us....no matter what condition we are in....no matter what we've done or not done....even a little "heathen child."
Now I'm all grown up and also an ordained pastor. I know that didn't happen by accident. It took God a good long time to get me to notice the call He had placed on my life...but eventually I did. And I look back now and realize it was there all along in the Christian friends and the Gideon Bible and the Word proclaimed by Linus. What about you? Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is Emmanuel: God With Us. Not just the day he was born in a stable...not just the 33 years he walked the earth ministering amidst humanity...but today, and all days. By the Holy Spirit, for sure, but also still incarnate. You see, the Holy Spirit that abides with you means that you are also a manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus...not like when he came himself, but in a new way that goes on and on in each of us. What is the incarnation of Jesus in you proclaiming this Christmas?
May your proclamation of Christmas be like that of Linus to someone who needs to hear the Good News this year. Because, "that's what Christmas is all about."
Blessed Christmas to you, Rev. Julie Parsell