Dear Siblings in Christ,
Merry Christmas! I hope that you and yours had a wonderful Christmas celebration, and maybe the festivities will even last all 12 days of Christmas, until January 6.
For many, Christmas truly is “The Most Wonderful Time of Year.” There’s Christmas trees, lights, cookies, presents, parties, and all kinds of merriment. It’s a time to visit with people you maybe haven’t seen for a whole year, to gather with friends and family around a wonderful feast. There’s a lot to be thankful for and excited about during Christmas. Sometimes it can be hard NOT to get into the Christmas spirit.
Of course, Christmas isn’t always so wonderful for some of us. Last year, I wrote that it was one of the merriest Christmases I’d had in a long time. Honestly, this year is much harder for me, and I know I’m not alone in that. There are all kinds of reasons people may find themselves in a “funk” (or whatever you choose to call it) around Christmastime. The headlines in the news that certainly can bring down our mood. Loneliness also plays a big role, especially as we get older and our families may be doing other things or our friends are no longer with us. Grief is often harder to manage during this time of year, especially for more recent losses, or for those that occurred around Christmas. Financial stress tends to increase as we’re choosing gifts and preparing special meals, or perhaps finding that we must go without this year. For some, as wonderful as it may be to see our friends and families, the busy calendar leaves no time to rest. In our social media world, we may also find ourselves with higher expectations based on the beautiful pictures and stories shared by others who seem to clearly be having a much better time than we are. And now that the festivities are mostly behind us, we find ourselves looking at a couple months of cold, dark and often lonely days.
No matter how you’ve been feeling during these 12 days of Christmas and beyond, there is still hope and good news. Many years ago, in the midst of a census that had people traveling far and wide to their hometowns, in a time of political unrest, where there was no room at the inn, a young woman and her partner spent the night in a stable and kept themselves warm among the animals. It was there, in the midst of a chaotic world and a humble dwelling place, that our God was born. That small, vulnerable baby was wrapped in cloths, and laid in the manger.
God chose to enter this world, not in the midst of safe and sterile delivery rooms or in picture-perfect celebrations, but in the midst of our world as it actually is, each and every day. God comes to us wherever we are, no matter how we’re feeling, regardless of whether we have the perfect Christmas or if we’re struggling to make it through. Jesus is the Light of the World, bringing light to our darkness, peace to our chaos, and hope to our despair. This child who has come into our world promises to walk with us always, in times of joy and celebration, and in times of loneliness and sorrow.
Here at St. Paul’s, we have both joys and struggles. We’ve just gathered for beautiful services at Christmas with our favorite Christmas hymns, and we’ve shared worship with our St. Paul’s family. Meanwhile, attendance has been a bit lower and we are still facing tight finances. Some of our volunteers and programs are in need of new life and energy. Thankfully, our joys outnumber our struggles. This month we are excited to welcome Ed Robertson and his wife, Janet, to our congregation and staff as our new Director of Music. We look forward to the insights and expertise that they will bring.
In the midst of everything, God promises to be with us and walk with us. Just like the small child that came into our chaotic world, the Holy Spirit continues to move and work at St. Paul’s and in each of us, and I am excited to see what is to come. I look forward to worshiping with you, and joining in ministry with you as God moves and works among us this year and in the years to come.
I am thankful for your generosity, prayers, and support, and for all the ways that you participate in the body of Christ.
To God be the glory.
Rev. Jessica Hahn