I love Christmas. The smells, the lights, the atmosphere, the time and fellowship with family and friends; and mostly the time to reflect. It’s a time to put politics and everything else aside for a couple of days and enjoy the season.
Like so many of my busy friends, I sometimes don’t take the time to smell the roses as it were; I tend to forget that the sky is blue. Christmas has a way of changing that. The calls and text messages start happening, cards come in the mail, packages are carefully wrapped, and wafts of Ginger Bread Cookies and other delights start emanating from kitchens everywhere.
This Christmas has been very special for a lot of reasons; as it turns out, many of my closest friends from out of state have converged on Florida so I’ve been able to hang out with some of them.
Last weekend I took a stroll down to City Place in West Palm Beach to start getting a sense of the Season, and I was blessed to spend time with some great friends at two very special Christmas Services since.
On Sunday, I attended a great service at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, and I have to say, it is powerfully different every year. In years past, I’ve seen the full choir adorned in beautiful royal purple gowns; full brass sections, and amazing performances by some of the very talented membership of that church. This year was different yet again. No brass section and the choir wasn’t adorned in purple array, however, the message was as real as it gets; and that is this season celebrates the birth of our Savior and the very real gift He gave to us.
Last night, Christmas Eve, I attended yet another service at my regular church, Community of Hope in Loxahatchee. This was the first such service I’ve attended at COH, and I was very impressed and moved. The service, led by Senior Pastor Dale Locke and his family, was simply beautiful. Pastor Locke discussed the message of Christmas and painted a vivid picture of that time and night so long ago when Jesus was born. He talked about Joseph and Mary, a betrothed young couple, much like any other, except that the had something so special and so ‘other worldly’ happening to them, that it would have been next to impossible to share with their family and friends. Imagine if you will, a time when being engaged meant you were almost already married, and the marriage ceremony was almost just a formality. Then imagine that virginity was not only expected before the wedding night, anything else was cause for humiliation and possible stoning; and then consider how you might explain to your family and friends that your very pregnant fiancée was still chaste. Who among us now or then would believe such a thing?
Hard as it might appear to be to us, Joseph believed the angelic visitations which explained what was happening. Since it is not every day that one is visited by Angels and Heavenly Hosts, what choice did he have? On the other hand, Mary knew without a doubt, Angels or not, that she had not been with a man, and yet she was pregnant. There could be no other explanation.
Pastor discussed another thing we seldom, if ever, consider…the travelling. Joseph and Mary were travelling to Bethlehem per mandate…there was no choice. Everyone had to be in Bethlehem for the census, and travel was a must, pregnant or not. They had none of the luxuries we enjoy; no cars, trains, or other modes of fast transportation. Nor did they possess any of the luxury modes of transportation of their day such as camels or livestock to pull them on a cart. No, instead, they had to walk the roughly 70 miles across harsh desert sand and conditions with no way of making advanced reservations. Imagine that! Penniless, forced to travel several days and nights with minimal supplies, and a baby due at any moment.
As one might expect, both pastors explained once again for all to hear the reason we celebrate this birth; of who Jesus is and why He came to earth taking the form of man. They explained the inescapable truth of what His mission was, and why He truly is who He claimed to be. They do so not only to remind the faithful of what Christmas signifies, they also do so to reach the many in attendance who have not heard the story of Jesus and the salvation He offers.
As I looked around the sanctuary in both settings, I couldn’t help but be struck by the numbers present at each. Both services were full to capacity. Upon entering the sanctuary at each event, everyone is given a candle. At the end of each service, attendants with one candle each light those from the main candle at the altar; from there they begin the rapid process of lighting one candle at the end of each row, with everyone following and sharing their now lit candle until every candle is lit. The photos show the effect once these candles are all held high.
As a very interesting side note. I think that some who don’t understand Christianity or the message of Christmas might think a lot of things, among them that Christians are ‘stuffed shirts’ or the like. Well, I’m here to say that a family that attends COH regularly, and happened to be sitting next to me, did something a little different, (and very cool) yesterday. Just prior to attending the service, they picked up a new addition to their family, and during the time when we greet each other at the beginning of each service, I happened to notice and greet this new addition and brought ‘Nick’ to the attention of as many as I could. I don’t think it’s possible to meet ‘Nick’ without smiling, and everyone that met him surely was as he turned an already very happy occasion into one that I and a lot of others will certainly never forget. He was just as sweet as he could be and not a peep out of him during the entire service.
That’s what Christmas is all about. The food, presents, lights, and all of that which I mentioned earlier are all very nice; however in the end, it’s all about families coming together to celebrate our Savior in their own ways. And if some of those family members are simply cute puppies and other pets, all the better.
We at The Patriots Press wish all of our friends and readers all the blessings of this wonderful season. Merry Christmas one and all.