Blog

Recent Posts

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is (almost) upon us, and with it comes all the business of the holiday season: Meals to plan and cook, friends and family to visit, and of course, presents to buy and wrap.

The entire Christmas Season, which now stretches from Thanksgiving through Christmas, goes by many names: The Season of Hope, the Season of Giving, the Season of Peace. We see these themes reflected in our culture in songs and carols, holiday movies, even in our public discourse. We are surrounded with messages of love and hope, but I wonder if there is time for these messages to seep into our souls as we try to maintain the frantic pace of the season.

For early Christians, the celebration of Christmas as an act of solidarity. Paul Bradshaw writes that there were a few celebrations of Christmas that started as local or regional feasts as early as the second century—some on January 6 and some on December 25—but the first thing we would recognize as Christmas today started to take shape in the fourth century. December 25 was selected as the day and two Gospel texts, Luke chapter 2 and John chapter 1, were chosen as readings for that day. Taken together, they affirmed that the eternal Christ who created all things came into the world as Jesus, the tiny baby born in Bethlehem.

Reading these Gospel passages together was significant at this historical moment. People within the church were deeply divided over the meaning of the incarnation and the personhood of Jesus. As brutal debates about the nature of Christ raged, a middle way emerged, a way to affirm that Jesus exists as both God and man. The celebration of Christmas became a way to end the debates and (re)focus attention on what believers share in their common life: A deep and life-changing connection to God and to one another.

I love the tradition of reading these texts together, and in my opinion, knowing the rich history of this tradition makes it even more meaningful. This weekend, we will join with our siblings in Christ from around the world and across the ages in reading these texts during our celebrations of Christmas at Christ Church of the Ascension. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will hear the words of Luke 2, pausing at the manger with angels and shepherds in adoration of the Baby Jesus. On Sunday the 26th, we will allow John 1 to speak to us in a fresh way, affirming that God is with us. I invite you to join us for any (or all) of our Christmas celebrations (details are right below this note).

In our modern era, pausing to remember the message of Christmas and to join our hearts and voices with believers from across history might seem countercultural. But that is the invitation that Christmas offers us each year: Put aside the business of your life and marvel at the gift of a tiny baby whose life would change history forever. The eternal God came to live among us, to experience life as we do, to be in relationship with us, so we too should live in harmony with one another.

And because we believe it is good for us to be together and because we affirm that there is more that unites us than divides us, we will have our own sort of middle way this year. We will gather indoors (the forecast calls for chilly weather and rain), but we will continue to wear masks in crowded spaces to protect those members of our community who are vulnerable to the threat of the virus. I encourage you to look at our safety guidelines (details also below) and thank you for doing what you can to make our worship as welcoming to all as we can.

This Christmas, we take time together to pause and to wonder. God is among us, and we are grateful.

Faithfully,

Christmas is (almost) upon us, and with it comes all the business of the holiday season: Meals to plan and cook, friends and family to visit, and of course, presents to buy and wrap.

The entire Christmas Season, which now stretches from Thanksgiving through Christmas, goes by many names: The Season of Hope, the Season of Giving, the Season of Peace. We see these themes reflected in our culture in songs and carols, holiday movies, even in our public discourse. We are surrounded with messages of love and hope, but I wonder if there is time for these messages to seep into our souls as we try to maintain the frantic pace of the season.

For early Christians, the celebration of Christmas as an act of solidarity. Paul Bradshaw writes that there were a few celebrations of Christmas that started as local or regional feasts as early as the second century—some on January 6 and some on December 25—but the first thing we would recognize as Christmas today started to take shape in the fourth century. December 25 was selected as the day and two Gospel texts, Luke chapter 2 and John chapter 1, were chosen as readings for that day. Taken together, they affirmed that the eternal Christ who created all things came into the world as Jesus, the tiny baby born in Bethlehem.

Reading these Gospel passages together was significant at this historical moment. People within the church were deeply divided over the meaning of the incarnation and the personhood of Jesus. As brutal debates about the nature of Christ raged, a middle way emerged, a way to affirm that Jesus exists as both God and man. The celebration of Christmas became a way to end the debates and (re)focus attention on what believers share in their common life: A deep and life-changing connection to God and to one another.

I love the tradition of reading these texts together, and in my opinion, knowing the rich history of this tradition makes it even more meaningful. This weekend, we will join with our siblings in Christ from around the world and across the ages in reading these texts during our celebrations of Christmas at Christ Church of the Ascension. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will hear the words of Luke 2, pausing at the manger with angels and shepherds in adoration of the Baby Jesus. On Sunday the 26th, we will allow John 1 to speak to us in a fresh way, affirming that God is with us. I invite you to join us for any (or all) of our Christmas celebrations (details are right below this note).

In our modern era, pausing to remember the message of Christmas and to join our hearts and voices with believers from across history might seem countercultural. But that is the invitation that Christmas offers us each year: Put aside the business of your life and marvel at the gift of a tiny baby whose life would change history forever. The eternal God came to live among us, to experience life as we do, to be in relationship with us, so we too should live in harmony with one another.

And because we believe it is good for us to be together and because we affirm that there is more that unites us than divides us, we will have our own sort of middle way this year. We will gather indoors (the forecast calls for chilly weather and rain), but we will continue to wear masks in crowded spaces to protect those members of our community who are vulnerable to the threat of the virus. I encourage you to look at our safety guidelines (details also below) and thank you for doing what you can to make our worship as welcoming to all as we can.

This Christmas, we take time together to pause and to wonder. God is among us, and we are grateful.

Faithfully,

The Rev. Dr. Perry M. Pauley

Associate Rector, Christ Church of the Ascension

Paradise Valley, AZ