Summary: In light of 9/11 and other events closer to home, this Christmas will be a different kind of Christmas for many, if not all. This sermon focuses in on the hope and promise in the birth of Jesus.
I want you to pause and think with me for just a moment. Here in the last few weeks of 2001, lets look back over this past year, and reflect.
We began with a down turn in our economy. In January, February, and March, households in Grace paid taxes on money they no longer had from their investments. Some of our retired folks watched their retirement funds shrink to half of what they had been. For some, monthly expenses meant touching the principal, and not just living on the interest.
Then came the layoffs. Many families within our family were laid off from Acxiom and Alltell - not once, but twice these companies laid off employees. By midsummer, we found ourselves uncertain and somewhat apprehensive of the economic future.
But that wasn’t all of the big blows for this year. Of course the biggest that comes to our mind is September 11 and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Those of us who already felt like we were trying to juggle things while standing on a balance board - lost our balance. The world toppled over. Many of us have never experienced anything like that before. We don’t want to ever again. And still, we await the uncertainty of the future.
However, I have felt personally those larger, more global events have only served to weaken me for the heavier blows more closer to home this year.
It seems like time and time again, the security of my world has been shaken, the lack of solidity to it brought home, as we have lost some members of our church family this year. Some we have lost at very young ages, and still others I know and you may know as well are extremely ill.
We have lost Lisa Pearcy, our Boy Scout Leader at the age of 44. The tragedy of her death is compounded by the fact that the boys were with her on a camping trip at the time. They experienced personally her collapse.
We have lost Steve Rumfelt at the age of 55. It was unexpected and sudden. It has been tragic, and I have felt his death rip the heart out of this church.
We have lost Wanda Tucker. Though she was not as young as Lisa or Steve, her death was still a sad and slow one. She died of Lou Gerhig’s disease, in spite of how much we wished it wasn’t so.
And we lost Jim Barte’ to cancer.
Many of us have lost loved ones this year - there have been mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles - people who are near and dear to our hearts in a way that no other person is.
Additionally, many have had the shock and blow of unexpected serious illness in our family. We have mentioned many over the last several weeks - Jean Bosch, Chere’ Beavers, Mary Milam, and Amy Slack, just to name a few. Their conditions are not without hope, but they are scary. Their lives and the lives of their families have been changed by this experience. In some of their stories I too have felt their fear and their shock. It has been and is a difficult year for many of us.
This Christmas will be a different kind of Christmas for these families. In some of these homes I have just mentioned, someone won’t be there, and Christmas won’t be the same. And in some of the others, physical abilities will be gone. Questions and concerns will be in their place. What will next Christmas be like? What will be missing then? Who won’t be here next year?
And when money tight, when you don’t have a job, it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all.
This Christmas will be a different kind of Christmas for all of us, for whether or not we have experienced a personal loss in our families, we share in the loss of our church family, and we share in the loss in our country.
Many of us are coping with serious illness, either ourselves or in those we love and we are worried.
Many of us are struggling financially and things have only gotten worse. Christmas coming only makes things more difficult.
Many of us deal with other issues and struggles - we need help. Our relationships are in jeopardy, our sanity is in jeopardy, our serenity is in jeopardy.
For some, it doesn’t feel like Christmas is coming, and for some, we’d just as soon Christmas went away.
This year will not be the same. This year places will be empty, traditions will be different, celebration will be diminished,
joyfulness will be a little quieter,
the warm glow a little less bright.
For many - for all - this will be a different kind of Christmas.