MAHONING VALLEY DISTRICT
Shine, church. Preach, church.
I cried this morning in the car as I heard about the bravery of the head custodian at Rancho Tehama Elementary School. He poked his head around the corner of the building and drew the attention of the school shooter, which gave the rest of the staff precious seconds to get the kids into lockdown. This time, no children died.
That was not the case in 2012. Twenty children died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I can’t help but think of them when I see Christmas decorations, because I remember news reports of people taking down their Christmas decorations. Understandably, they didn’t feel like celebrating. I couldn’t blame them for feeling that Santa and reindeer were mockery.
While there is much to enjoy in the Santa myth, what hope does it ultimately offer us in the abyss of such evil? Children who had been very good weren’t going to be opening any presents that Christmas morning. If a man bringing toys to children is what Christmas is about, then there was nothing to celebrate in the face of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Or the Ebola epidemic in 2014. Or the refugee crisis of 2016. Or the Sutherland Springs church shooting of 2017.
But thank God the Christmas story is not of a fantasy man in a red suit, but of a divine baby in a manger. The Christmas story is not about numbing our pain with things, but about God-with-us in the midst of the things that cause us pain. The Christmas story is not about rewarding the people on the nice list with more nice things while telling the people on the naughty list that they aren’t worth more than a lump of coal, but about proclaiming peace and goodwill to all—remember, the people of Jesus’ day would have put shepherds on the naughty list. The Christmas story isn’t about a façade of perfection—perfect card pictures, perfect decorations, perfect dinner, perfectly behaved children— but about God’s perfect love for imperfect people. The Christmas story is about a man who gives gifts, but that man is Jesus and the gifts he gives are love, hope, joy, and peace; redemption and salvation; justice and forgiveness.
You know that, but not everyone does.
You need to tell the Jesus Christmas story. You need to give our communities a new Christmas narrative. Show them how powerful prayer is by letting God transform you to be a person of peace through your prayer. Be a beacon of hope by proclaiming good news to the poor and release to the captive through your ministries. Let them see what real love is by the way you proclaim peace and goodwill to all. Make it evident that lasting joy is found in loving and serving Christ and his people. The world needs a new story. Tell them the Jesus Christmas story all year round!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There was a house with fairly garish Christmas lights on the street we lived on the last 5 years. We called it the Griswold house—you know, like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In 2012, when I’d come home at night during that dark, dark week, those lights blazed defiantly. Christmas lights had never been so symbolic before. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4)
Shine, church. Preach, church. Tell the world the greatest story ever told so it will know the greatest love there is.
God’s peace on earth and goodwill to all,
Rev. Abby Auman
The Mahoning Valley District Office:
Rev. Abby Auman
4580 Canfield Rd, PO Box 11260 Youngstown OH 44511
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
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