Christmas Letter from Rev. Mark - 2018

December 21, 2018

Dear Friends in Christ,

Each year during Advent, one part of our household preparations I look forward to is decorating our home with the cards that arrive as the weeks pass by.  Our custom is to tape each one to the archway between our living room and dining room, surrounded by a string of white lights.

For Sandy and me, the cards themselves are bright lights, reminding us of the love and friendships we are so richly blessed with.  Equally treasured is the cards' wonderful variety.  They come from as far as Wisconsin and from people as diverse as local school parents and Rosalynn & Jimmy Carter (through our support of the Carter Center in Sandy's hometown of Atlanta).  They come from fellow Christians, Jewish brothers and sisters of Abraham and agnostics alike. But this year we received two cards unlike anything we'd received in Christmases past.  They both said, “Happy Everything”.

This phrase reminds us of the reality that there are dozens of significant celebrations, sacred and secular, that occur between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Besides the better-known Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa, there's Bodhi Day (Buddhism), Las Posadas (Latin America) and Pancha Ganapati (Hinduism), to name a few.  In the first four days of Christmas alone we acknowledge St. Stephen (Deacon & martyr), John the Evangelist and the Holy Innocents whom Herod had killed.

We should also not too quickly dismiss a sense of the sacred as virtually every culture in the world shares countless celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice and the miracle of our return to the increase of light and the renewal of life all around us.  These include Modraniht (Saxon), Saturnalia (Roman), Yalda (Iranian), Koliada (Slavic), Dongzhi (China) and, just for fun, the fictional Festivus (Seinfeld).

In the midst of all these celebrations, please remember that you have three opportunities to celebrate the gift of Jesus' Incarnation here at St. Matthew's.  We start on Christmas Eve at 3 p.m. with the Holy Eucharist and Children's Christmas Pageant.  That evening the joy continues with a 9:30 carol sing followed by our 10:00 Festive Eucharist featuring St. Matthew's Choir.  On Christmas Day we complete our trilogy with a simple Eucharist at 10:00.  Come as you are.  Pajamas optional.

In the spirit of all the above I want to say that, for all the joy of Christmas, since I first arrived at St. Matthew's, each week has been a privilege as I've been blessed to preach and celebrate among you.  Your welcome, your hospitality, your energy for mission and ministry and your friendship are gifts as precious as any I'll find under any tree on any day of the year.

So, it is, as we approach the manger with full and grateful hearts, I say to you in the love and peace of the Incarnate Christ:

Happy Everything!

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