Vandalia United Methodist Church


From the Pastor

"Behold, I bring you great news that will cause even greater joy for all the people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10

There's an iconic moment in "A Christmas Story", when mom and dad and Ralphie survey the carnage of wrapped paper and already discarded presents under the family tree. "The Old Man" (dad Parker) turns to his eldest son and opines; "did you get everything you wanted?" Ralphie (who really wanted a bb gun) answers back glumly, "well almost." To which the old man responds, "almost huh? Well, that's life. Well there is always next Christmas."

As I write this, November 23, I am fairly certain I won’t get everything I want for Christmas either. As a preacher there is nothing more spiritually uplifting than a congregation filled on Christmas Eve with people, lighting candles and singing "Silent Night". This is every preacher's Super Bowl and it is beginning to look like I won't get that this year. I also, likely, won't get the crowded shopping mall experience two Saturdays before Christmas. I know that I grumble and complain about the lines and the parking and the cost; but it really is part of the Holiday tradition to spend at least one day with the lines and the parking and the cost. It is unlikely I will get this experience this year also. My boys are too big to sit on Santa's lap and we are not blessed yet with grandkids, but I will miss seeing someone else's child or grandchild climb into Saint Nick's lap and either excitedly share what is on their list or burst into tears. I will likely miss this too. There are holiday meals at favorite restaurants, check that off the likely list. Time spent in the homes of our dear friends and extended family, nope! And caroling from door-to-door, even getting invited in for egg nog. Is not going to happen. I am trying not to be pessimistic, but this year I think I am with Ralphie. "Well almost".

Christmas 2020 is going in the same hopper as Mother's Day 2020, Father's Day 2020, Easter 2020, and so on and so forth. But, having lamented all that I will likely not experience this Christmas season; I wonder if I simply need to think about what makes Christmas a holy day, and not just a holiday. The holiday is marked by all the traditions we enjoy. Foods and presents and parties and cards mark holidays. Decorating trees and singing "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" (just once, please) mark holidays. Travel and visits with dear friends mark holidays. But Holy Days are not marked by these traditions and treasures. Holy Days are marked by the sacred remembrance of what is sacred. In this case that God was born in a stable somewhere in a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere in Palestine in the Roman Empire when the calendar turned from B.C. to A.D. That Holy Day, which we have set for December 25, will happen only if we remember to keep it sacred. And I must confess, sometimes I put so much stock in the holiday and its trappings that I fail to acknowledge the Holy Day.

God did not send this pandemic. It is folly to ascribe evil to God when Scripture is clear that evil is human generated. There have been pandemics before and likely will be pandemics again. There have been holidays muted by world wars, depressions, and significant family loss in the past. We have all experienced Christmas holidays that were, "well almost". But the pandemic will not rob us of the Holy Day. Only our fickle and feckless hearts will. So this year, on December 25, find some quiet place and your Bible (and perhaps a candle) and read for yourself what makes this day not just a holiday but a Holy Day. God is born among us. For we may not get what we wanted (or thought we did), on Christmas Day we got so much more!

Merry Christmas. Pastor Tom





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

First United Methodist Church of Vandalia :: 618.283.3684