Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is Christmas Boring?

“During his tenure as head football coach at the University of Arkansas, Lou Holtz once had his team play a bowl game on Christmas Day. When a reporter asked him how he felt about playing football on this day, rather than being at home with his family, Coach Holtz was honest and to the point. “Frankly, I’d rather be doing this,” he said. “Once you’ve been to church, had dinner and opened the gifts, Christmas is the most boring day of the year.” (from A More Urgent Season, Erskine White, 1993)
 Hmm. I ask myself, has Christmas become boring? It certainly wasn’t when I was a kid. Then Christmas was about getting together with all of my cousins and absolutely enjoying life. We did some of the craziest stuff. Sometimes we got so wild that our aunts would come upstairs and yell at us to be quiet. It didn’t work. Some of my favorite memories are writing plays and acting them out for our aunts and uncles, playing with our new Cabbage Patch dolls with such vigor than mine’s arm nearly came off, jumping on the beds (sure to get us in trouble), recording fake radio interviews with people like “the garbage man”, climbing the ladders in the barn, playing football in the yard, trying to make the world’s largest snowman, playing hearts or euchre (or if we were really adventurous – spoons, but you risked losing a finger to my Uncle Bill). I think those days were some of the best in my life.

 There was something about Grandma and Grandpa’s house that made Christmas worthwhile. And it wasn’t really the gifts. Quite honestly, we did very little gift giving. In a large family you couldn’t give gifts to everyone, so we exchanged names. Each person got one gift, that’s it. What made Christmas was the atmosphere. It was aunts and uncles who really cared about us, cousins who didn’t always get along – but were best friends anyway, it was knowing that no matter how far away we moved we could still call this place home.
 As I think about it, I’d like our church to be a place like that for all of you this Christmas season. A place where we care about one another and really ask how it is going, a place where we may not always get along but we love each other anyway, a place where no matter how far away you move or no matter how long it has been since you came – you still can call your spiritual home. I want you to say there is something about God’s house that makes Christmas worthwhile – that it brings me a sense of peace and joy, of love and hope that I just don’t get anywhere else. I want you to encounter the Christ-child here in such a deep and meaningful way, that you would never call Christmas boring.
 So throw yourself into the adventure. Return home to church, laugh so hard that the person in the next pew says “Be quiet” at the same time you discover that people here care about you, sing “Joy to the World” extra loud and “Silent Night” especially quietly, and most of all find a deeper meaning for the season than just giving gifts as you reencounter the one true gift of God in Christ.

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