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Pastor's Notes

Dear Friends,
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a Messiah who was born to die sacrificially for us, and to show us how to live sacrificially.  Sacrifice is not a pleasant word for most of us.  Just the idea of sacrifice makes us feel uncomfortable.  Most of us would rather have a holly, jolly Christmas than to be challenged to “be” an honestto-God Christmas miracle.  
We operate with a rather distorted view of Christmas.  Many of the traditions we hold dear are mixtures of a little biblical truth, blended with eighteenth-century Victorian practices, and a shot of Santa theology.  Many of us actually confuse “The Night Before Christmas” with the real Christmas story.
Even the hymns we sing present a sanitized version of a traumatic event: “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.”   I’m not sure about your newborns, but ours had a tendency to raise the roof!
The real Christmas was a snapshot of poverty and anxiety, not feel-good warm fuzzies.  Maybe we have all grown up with a distorted picture of a feel-good Santa Claus Jesus.  That way we won’t have to come face-to-face with the injustice and suffering in our world.  
The real message of Christmas is about a sacrificial gift.  It is easy to get excited about  a newborn snuggly wrapped in a manger filled with straw.  This Jesus of the manger poses no threat to our lifestyle or cultural ideas.  But the manger comes with a cost.  It is impossible to separate the manger from the cross!  The cross is at the center of the Christian message.  In Philippians 3:10, Paul puts it this way: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.”   Jesus, who calls us to follow the way of the cross, challenges every tradition and value we hold to be truth.  Miracles do not appear out of thin air, like magic.  We cannot receive God’s miracle unless we are ready and willing to pay the cost.  
For our lives to be meaningful, we need to give them away.  Meaning is not found in personal comfort and material luxuries.  A meaningful Christmas is not found in mindless spending, eating, and stress.  Rather, we find meaning when we give sacrificially to the community of faith - and to those in need.  When we do so, we are giving to Jesus himself.  Remember, it’s his birthday we are celebrating.
Christmas is all about a miracle.  Miracles don’t just happen, but are born through the pain of labor.  Pain is not comfortable, and the pain of labor leading to birth is intense.  If we are willing to be open to producing miracles, God will conceive miracles in and through us.  Immanuel has come as our Savior, but also to move us out of our comfort zones.
It may be very difficult to make changes in our lives that honor Jesus.  If we are willing to do all we can, God will do all that we can’t.  When we are willing to commit to the pain of labor, God will make the impossible possible.  Let’s all commit to working for a miracle this season!  Be generous and give sacrificially!
In the Master’s service, Steve