Dear Fellow Mistletoe Managers:
Through Facebook and other forms of social media, we’re connected almost immediately with all the accumulated wisdom of the moment. (We’re also connected to a bunch of meaningless drivel, but I’m not going to dwell on that right now.) A few years back, one of my Facebook friends posted “21 mistakes I made as a Senior Pastor.” They were pretty good and include things like “Putting numbers over faces, Putting church over community, Putting accountability over acceptance” and “Putting holiness over humanity.”
I got to thinking about the Christmas season and this little formula of “Putting X over Y” and came up with a few of my own for Advent. I’ll call it “Mistakes with the Mistletoe.”
Putting tradition over need Putting style over substance Putting Santa over children Putting slaving over serving Putting shopping over spirituality Putting church attendance over faith Putting obligation over opportunity Putting “togetherness” over intimacy Putting gifting over listening Putting “ours” over “theirs” Putting childish over childlike Putting cost over value Putting “should” over joyful Putting migraine over manger
You get the idea.
My thought is not to take yet another cheap shot at the commercialization of Christmas; most of you are already fed up and don’t need that reminder. My hope is to pause even longer, not to condemn the bad aspects of how we celebrate, but to draw forward the deeper wonders of the season. I’m not worried that you’re getting things “wrong”; I want to affirm that, in so many ways, you’re getting it RIGHT!
Let’s not waste energy in condemning the “X”; use that energy to more emphatically celebrate the “Y”!
There are so many opportunities to become distracted from the simple miracle. In Jesus we proclaim God’s love for us was so great that He became us, born into human flesh, in conditions of poverty, to an oppressed people and humble family. God did not come because we made the world beautiful enough for him to arrive; Jesus came to tell us the world was already loved, and that’s beautiful. I know you get that, because I see all the beautiful ways you express that love throughout the year: your encouragement of children and visitors, your generosity to the community, your unwavering compassion.
That’s why the church takes a little longer than the rest of the world to get to the Christmas story. We wander down these halls of Advent, recalling the story leading up to Christ’s birth. Remembering how Jesus was born into a world of pain, anxiety, fear and hope helps us recognize how that birth comes to us as well. Over 2,000 years ago people needed to know they mattered, just like today. And over 2,000 years ago a Savior was born who redeemed the world, our world.
Then, as now, so many missed his coming because they were expecting something else. They looked for a Messiah that would solve their problems and make their lives easy. What they got instead was a Christ who gave their lives meaning and made their circumstance no longer a problem.
As we’ve journeyed through Advent, come once again on Christmas Eve (December 24 at 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.) to slow down long enough to see the miracle in the manger, Emmanuel, God with us!
With Love to you this and every season, I remain,
Jonathan B. Krogh