"...The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
- Luke 2:10-14
I hope you are making plans to join us for the second annual Community Candlelight Service at the Columbia County amphitheater on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. I am excited about the opportunity to worship together as a community as we celebrate freely and joyfully the reason for the season.
I realize that some of you reading this are already all "planned out." It is ironic that this season of great joy, great hope and great peace is most often celebrated in our country with great busy-ness, great anxiety and great clutter. We mail cards, buy gifts, bake cookies, send pictures, plan dinners. We brave mobs of shoppers. We endure the decorating and argue over the tree. We sit through concerts and parties, waiting for Christmas to get here so we can get it over with. Emotionally, physically, psychologically, most of us are done by now. And it isn't even Christmas yet.
As A.W. Tozer once said, "Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate his coming by making peace impossible for six weeks of each year."
Still, given the alternative, I am thankful in a way for the chaos of this holiday season. Too many others around the world don't have our luxury. They worship quietly in house churches and back rooms, keeping faith at great risk to their very lives. Politics, religion and culture conspire against followers of Jesus in many countries of the world, making the free practice of faith a difficult challenge.
Remembering them even as we enter our own "holy chaos" is a great privilege. In fact, remembering them strikes at the very heart of Christmas, a day for celebrating the Prince of Peace. After all, those who are connected to the cross are connected to us. Isn't it Jesus himself who reminded us that when one suffers, we all suffer? When the angels ushered in the great news of Christ's coming, didn't they say it would be for all the people?
At our Community Candlelight Service this year, we will take time to remember those for whom the free expression of worship is still a future hope. We will offer prayers in the languages of several countries where Christianity is most often repressed, and we will remember the courage of those who struggle to keep the faith as we light our own candles in the darkness.
I hope to see you at the amphitheater on Thursday. And wherever you celebrate the reason for the season this year, I hope you will pray together with us that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World and the Prince of Peace, will be able to shine into every land and on every person.
(Carolyn Moore is pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans.)
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