So 2020 did not run according to our plan and it looks as though our Christmas celebrations might be different from what we are used to, too.
In the past, the weeks leading up to Christmas have generally involved scripting, decorating, prop making and rehearsing in preparation for the biggest church gathering of the year. Every year I have looked forward to seeing children, youth and adults dress up as angels, shepherds and wise men to retell the Christmas narrative around the manger in the lowly stable.
Read Luke 2:1–20 and Matthew 1:18–2:12.
Share your favourite memories of Christmas Eve presentations over the years.
But what will Christmas be like in 2020? For many congregations, Christmas may feel a little different. We will still seek to creatively share the Christmas message but it might seem unfamiliar as we do so in a COVID-safe way.
Personally, I will be ‘between parishes’. This will be my first year in 24 years that I have not led a congregation at Christmas time. This gives me a rare opportunity to ‘unplug’ from all of the Christmas trimmings and ask myself, ‘So what does it mean that Jesus was born for me?’ The Gospels of Mark and John remove the trimmings for us and give us stripped-back presentations of Jesus’ birth.
Read Mark 1:1 and John 1:1–5,9–14. What do you notice in these readings?
These Gospel accounts focus us on the one who is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations. When we remove all the trimmings of Christmas, the one who remains is Jesus who has made his dwelling with us. Jesus is God with us. And no social-distancing restrictions or COVID-safe planning can take his presence from us!
So why celebrate Christmas even if we do not have all the trimmings?
Go back and re-read Matthew 1:21.
Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins. He came to redeem us from our sin. Into the mess that we make for ourselves, God sent Jesus. The promise of a Saviour is seen in many Old Testament passages.
Read Psalm 130. What is the gift that is ours because of our Lord Jesus, whose birth and presence we celebrate at Christmas?
We would like to think that we are able to live the perfect life on our own but we would be fooling ourselves to think so. The Scriptures provide us with a mirror to show our need for a Saviour.
Read Romans 3:23,24. What do these verses reveal to you?
When all of the trimmings of Christmas are removed, we can see more clearly the gift God has for us.
Read Romans 5:1–21. What does this chapter teach you about God’s gift to us?
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus. Help us to let go of the trimmings of Christmas, turn away from our sin and fix our eyes on your son Jesus who came and suffered to save us. Thank you for bringing us peace, forgiveness and eternal life with you through Jesus. Holy Spirit, continue to grow our character in these challenging times that we may live with hope. Amen.
Pastor Nigel Rosenzweig is concluding a termed call with both the LCA/NZ’s Grow Ministries Local Mission department and St John’s Lutheran Church Unley in suburban Adelaide. In 2021 he will take on a regular call as pastor at Victor Harbor, South Australia.
This feature story comes from The Lutheran December 2020. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.
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