Worship Companion – December 20 2020

Christmas is almost upon us!
As the Charlie Brown Christmas Special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” reminds us, its very easy to get caught up in all the “commercialism” of the Christmas season. When Charles Shultz wrote that story in 1965, he had no idea to what magnitude the tidal wave of commercialism would grow. We live in new heights of commercial sell-out to Christmas, and if you don’t like this, please remember the problem isn’t just with “them” its with **us**, too.
Every year I look forward to watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and this year was no exception. A few weeks ago already, we sat down as a family on the couch and watched this Christmas classic. Charlie Brown isn’t perfect, but I think there are at least two things we would do well to imitate from his example. 
First, this Christmas, don’t be afraid to ask (again) what is the point of it all? “Won’t someone please tell me what Christmas is really about?” Be honest questioners. Ask, seek, knock, and you will receive (Matt 7:7-8). We all lose sight from time to time, from facemasks to gadgets to lights on the tree, there are a lot of small things we let get in the way of the real point of Christmas.  
Second, use your discontent to do something good. There are a lot of things we wish were different about this year’s holiday season. Your discontent will either discourage you or motivate you. Let it motivate you to do something good. To bless the people around you. To love them in a way they understand and appreciate. Though your efforts might seem like planting a little pine sapling in an immense dark forest, remember, God gives the growth, and who knows what the ripple effects of the little things to do for the kingdom may grow to this year.
Anchor Passages for the Week:
The Theme in Poetry:
Autumn by David Baird, Printed in Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite
Was certainly not winter, scholars say,
When holy habitation broke the chill
Of hearth-felt separation, icy still,
The love of life in man that Christmas day.
Was autumn, rather if seasons speak true;
When green retreats from sight’s still ling’ring gaze,
And creeping cold numbs sense in sundry ways,
While settling silence speaks of solitude.
Hope happens when conditions are as these;
Comes finally lock-armed with death and sin,
When deep’ning dark demands its full display.
Then fallen nature driven to her knees
Flames russet, auburn, orange fierce from within,
And bush burns brighter for the growing grey.
While much ink has been spilt in debates about the actual timing of Jesus’ birth, Baird chooses to both acknowledge the debate and yet move past it quickly into the deeper theological and experiential meaning of the incarnation. Whether a winter or an autumn chill, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that Christ came to break the chill of our separation from the Holy and bring us once again near to the warm hearth next to His loving Father, and now ours.
And a word about the collection from which I quoted today: Guite’s book is essential reading for anyone who recognizes the need for a little more poetry in their lives.
The Theme in Art:
Sometimes we forget how power of contemporizing representations of scenes from the Bible. This has been a common practice throughout history and is observable in almost every age. Bible scenes set in countryside much more like rural France than the Holy land, and yes, even images of Jesus with white skin, light hair, and blue eyes, can actually serve a purpose to remind us that the Bible is applicable to all times, places, and people. Consider two scenes below, one a modern European representation of Mary and Joseph, and the second a picture of a nativity from the Inuit people.

Title: Difficult Journey – Transition to Bethlehem
Date: 1890
Artist: Fritz von Uhde, 1848-1911

Ask yourself, how do representations like these help us relate to the stories in scripture? In what ways can they be misleading or even harmful?
Reflect on your own relationship with Christ. Are there mental pictures that come to mind for you about him, or the stories and settings you know so well from scripture or art that has influenced you in the past?
There won’t be a song or video this week. Instead, the last thought I have to share with you this week is one of silence and simplicity. Go to a window, look outside. Or sit in silence and look at your own Christmas tree, nativity scene or whatever else may catch you eye right now. Let your heart be quiet before God. Don’t force it. Take a moment to pay attention to the unforced rhythms of grace.
Merry Christmas.

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