If you were not at the church this Saturday, then you were among the few people in the neighborhood who weren’t. On one end of the building, St. James’ preschool families gathered for their annual Breakfast with Santa. On the other end of the building, nativity scenes were being sold in anticipation of Christmas’ coming.
On most Saturday mornings, I wake up, look over Sunday’s sermon (or complete the first draft) before committing to the manuscript. Meaning: I rarely step outside of my front door until lunchtime or later on Saturday afternoon.
But this Saturday was different, and I am glad that it was. It always thrills me when I drive into the church parking lot and have to circle for a little while until I find a place to park, which is exactly what happened this Saturday.
When I walked through the door nearest the pastor’s study, I was wonderfully overwhelmed by the amount of energy in the room as children lined up to sit on Santa’s lap and families gathered in the gym to eat breakfast together.
More importantly, I gave thanks that so many faces of the children in line to see Santa and in the gym were familiar ones. In all of my years in ministry, I have never, ever regretted spending time with children, and at St. James, I am especially grateful that I have good relationships with the preschool director, the preschool staff and the families who entrust the care of their children to the organization.
One of the highlights of everyday life at St. James for me is that I am part of the reading rotation at the preschool. In fact, one of my favorite memories of my time at St. James occurred one afternoon as I was walking to my car and crossed paths with a mom and her daughter, who were approaching the church. The little girl patted her mom on the leg, pointed to me and said, “That’s the guy who reads to me.”
She did not see as the pastor or the preacher but as one who shares stories with her class. Then again, isn’t that what pastors, and Christians of all stripes, are supposed to do? We are supposed to share stories that proclaim God’s love in Jesus Christ and to remind all people whom we encounter that they are loved.
As I visited the display of nativity scenes that Susan Asbury donated to the church sale (thanks, Susan), I could not help but be amazed by the extent to which each and every nativity scene was the same and the extent to which each and every one of them was different.
Every nativity scene that I considered exudes the love that heathy parents have for children and that God has for us all. Every scene also reflects the preferences and appearances of the people in the places where they were made, and this observation is one that provides extraordinary insight into the practices and the traditions that sustain each and every one of us this time of year.
Christmas is for the children, all of God’s children, and yet Christmas is also about a child, the arrival of the Messiah whom God promises to Israel. Much has to happen between now and Christmas, but I believe that it will happen if we stay focused on the One who gives life to us all and prepare for his coming step-by-step and day-by-day.