Vandalia United Methodist Church

From the Pastor's Study

A Bare-Bones Christmas

Imagine a Christmas without any store-bought decorations. If there is a tree, it would come from the woods; and if there are any ornaments, they are handmade from what nature provides. Your decorations also come from what you can find outside: garlands of greenery, red berries, feathers, dried grasses, flowers, and pine cones. Suppose there are no electric lights to string across the branches of your tree or the eaves of your house.

Imagine a Christmas where there are no electric or gas ovens, and sugar is a prized commodity. Think of a place where most all cooking is done over charcoal, and you can’t run to the store to pick up a frozen turkey, pumpkin pie, or whipped topping. Is it still Christmas without your traditional dishes filling the kitchen with their appetizing aromas?

Imagine a Christmas without the latest toys, electronic gadgets, or fashions. Any gift that is given is handmade, and there is no money for brightly colored wrapping paper with coordinating ribbons and bows. Is it still Christmas without Walmart, Amazon, and Fed-Ex?

Imagine a Christmas where no one travels, but stays home. There is no hustling from house to house, grandparent to grandparent, bundling up the children and loading up gifts. You do not have to worry about Christmas Eve at one location, Christmas morning at home, brunch somewhere else, and finally a big evening meal in yet another town.

Imagine a Christmas that has never been held in winter, so that snowmen and icicles and Santa with his sleigh and reindeer make no sense.

While never a topic for discussion, these thoughts filled my mind as I reflected on my trip to Liberia nearly ten years ago. I wondered what their Christmas would be like; and I rationalized, there would be distinct differences. There might be special recipes for cooking and handmade gifts and decorations, but all the glitz and glimmer of our holidays would be missing. Their Christmas is most likely a day of worship, likely filled with music and song, dancing in the church aisles, and inspirational preaching. It’s a day spent in Christian fellowship, without the distractions of our world.

Considering what the people of the third world do not have that we have, I wonder what they have in their Christmas celebrations that we do not have. Could their Christmas be a more meaningful time of rejoicing for the birth of Jesus than ours?

If there were no decorating; no Christmas cards to address; no traveling from store to store; no perusing various websites, looking for the best deal or the perfect gift; no Christmas goodies to bake; no huge meal to prepare; and no elaborate office parties to attend; what would you do with the extra time, energy, and money? And would it still be Christmas for you?

If you can answer yes, then you probably have discovered the true meaning of Christmas in which God entered our world through his Son Jesus Christ. He came in a very vulnerable and humble way. God became human so that we could witness the way God wants us to live our lives: Not in self-indulgence, but in compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice.

May God fill your hearts and homes with his love this Christmas.


9:30 AM Worship Service
10:40 AM Sunday School

First United Methodist Church of Vandalia :: 618.283.3684