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"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." John 1:5

December 14, 2020

Dear People of St. Laurence,

As I drive through the neighborhoods of the Tri-Cities, I am astonished by how the night is painted with dots of red and yellow, deep blue and green.  Santas and snowmen tower over reindeer and candy canes.  It’s a riot of joy in the dark.  I am encouraged by our persistent resistance to not let COVID quash Christmas.  It’s as if we’ve collectively decided that the deep spiritual impulse of wanting to give the gift of joy is worth hanging onto. 

The risk of course is that our spiritual impulses get co-optedby commercialism.  We can get lost in the glitz and glitter of new and shiny toys.  We are vulnerable to the Market’s insatiable need for us to buy new stuff. 

But there is goodness in our desire to give joy, to please our loved ones, or to simply bless strangers.  We feel whole in making someone else happy.  And our hearts are moved when someone has thoughtfully and carefully given to us.  These are impulses that spring from the foundation of our very being. 

I don’t need to tell you that this will be a quieter Christmas than what we’ve known.  We won’t gather outside of our households.  We’ll missthe lights of Lafarge Lake, VanDusen Gardens, or Stanley Park.  We won’t attend the Messiah or theNutcracker.  We won’t host our annual Christmas party.  We will miss whatever traditions and ritualshave brought us together for games, song, good food and community.   Unless, of course, it’s by ZOOM, which just isn’t quite the same. 

What’s hardest for me is that we will not be together in-person as a worshiping community for Christmas services.  That feels wrong somehow, and it makes me sad.

This will instead be a subdued holiday, a quiet time with family, with not a lot to do and nowhere to go.  And that may very well be the gift.  My hope is that, in the midst of it, we are able to receive a quiet joy and holy peace. 

It makes me think of the night that started it all, the night Jesus was born.  That, too, was a subdued and quiet event.  We don’t even know when exactly it was, because no one thought to record the day.  It was atypically human evening.  A young mother gave birth to her first child.  Her husband waited expectantly by.  Luke tells us it happened in stable where the animals were kept.  So perhaps there were also cows, sheep, and donkeys.  It was ordinary. A newfamily sharing in a moment of wonder and joy, while the stars of the night sky shown in all their glory. 

Humans across the globe and throughout time have shared that same experience.  The wonder of birth.  The joy of being family.  The beauty of simply living among other creatures and sitting under starry skies.  We don’t celebrate that enough. 

And yet, this ordinary birth of Jesus was extra-ordinary too.  The whole point behind the idea of Incarnation is that God embraces our own embodiment.  That God fills our everyday moments, even in their quiet un-eventfulness.  Somehow, some way, that mother, baby and father experienced God’s presence.  In the simplicity and peace of that night, Jesus was Emmanuel – God with us.  As Luke tells it, that sparked choirs of angels and a ragged group of excited shepherds.  Matthew says exotic stargazers from the East showed up bearing gifts. 

But in the end, it really was just a pair of parents, a newborn boy, and the presence of God. 

My hope and prayer for all of you this Christmas, is that in the quiet of your homes and in the simplicity of your gatherings, the Divine would be near, and that the presence of God’s peace would be with you and hold you.

Merry Christmas,

Rev. Eric Mason

 

PS.  The sanctuary will be open for individual prayer on Christmas Eve from 4-7pm and from 9-11pm.  On Christmas Day it will be open from 10am-noon.  Either Julie Lemon or myself will be there with candles burning. 

PPS.  Join us for the live-stream at 8pm on Christmas Eve.  Afterwards, the choir will lead us in a ZOOM carol-sing-along at 9pm.   Details can be found on the website. 

PPPS.  If you wish to give a Christmas gift to St. Laurence, consider doing so on our website.  Click where it says “Donate.”