Off the Wall December 2017 by Dr. Alan Dorway

When you think of Christmas, what is your favorite memory? Maybe it’s time with family? Maybe it’s a time you received a special gift? Maybe it’s just the smell of pine or a song sung by the fire? For me, I have three memories that stand out. First, I enjoy singing Christmas carols, hymns, and songs. When we sing together in worship or when I sing with a group for others, I feel blessed. One Christmas, a church I served in, went around town singing Christmas carols, on a hay wagon pulled by a horse. The following year, we had only three guys show up to visit six houses. True, we did not have the horse or the wagon, but the three of us jumped in a car, plowed through the snow, and sang our hearts out to six congregation members who were probably wondering, why on earth such a small choir would show up to their house. I’m glad we did.

Second, I remember formative sermons the pastors gave at my home church. I am in awe of the ability to stand in the pulpit and share a message about the love of God through a story all of us know, with integrity and new insights.

Lastly, I have an appreciation for the way the cold air feels and the lack of sound after a late Christmas Eve worship service. It doesn't happen often, but there have been evenings when I’ve closed the sanctuary or left after a reflective service, both here and back in Nevada, that the feel of the air and the lack of noise, create brief sense of the stillness; perhaps the stillness that Bethlehem experienced the night Jesus was born. True, some of this is my imagination, but there is beauty in the stillness of a night filled with heavenly expectation.

Those are three of my favorite memories and experiences during the Christmas season. I could have listed gathering with family and friends, because those times are important. I could have said the food, which is always good. I could have said gifts, because who doesn’t like a surprise gift?

Yet, for me, I’m drawn to the church’s faithful return, year after year to the manger and seeing the newborn Christ child. I can’t promise you that we will sing all your favorite songs. I hope to have a good sermon on Christmas Eve. And this year, we’re not doing an 11pm service, but our goals this Advent, are to allow us to slow down and break free, even if for a moment, from the frenzied pace of the season. We will sing favorite carols and hymns. We will be blessed with music from the Kara Harp players. Our choir will lead us through a cantata where we will hear the story of the birth of Christ. Then on Christmas Eve, we’re going to change things up a little. We’re going to be creative in our 10am and 4pm services.

This Christmas, I do hope you and your family have a great and special time. Over this next month, share with me what some of your favorite Christmas memories are. I’d enjoy hearing them. We invite you to share in this season with your family here at FPCE as well. Together, we will sing, listen, share, and experience the love of God taking on human form as a baby in a manger. We all remember, at the end of a seemingly disastrous Christmas pageant, Linus stands up in the auditorium and recites the simple verses from Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV), “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

This is what Christmas is all about. Blessings this Christmas season!