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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Al Henager: God with Us Still

  • It is difficult sometimes to get a whole extended family together, even at Christmas.
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  • It is difficult sometimes to get a whole extended family together, even at Christmas.  For my family, it just was not possible to get everyone together in the same place on Christmas Day.  So, we tried for the day after Christmas.  When that didn’t work, we moved it to the Saturday after Christmas.  Finally, we were all together to celebrate.
    After the traditional Christmas dinner of ham, turkey, dressing, and all the rest, we retired to the living room so that the grandchildren could open their presents.  Although they had all had their own Christmas celebration at their homes on “the day of,” they still had presents from Grampy and Beena. 
    As they got ready to tear into the presents, one of my grandsons said to the other, “You mean Christmas isn’t over?”  Then, after the presents had all been opened, the other grandson said to the first one, “Now, Christmas is over.”
    Well, Christmas is over, in a way.  Packages have now all been unwrapped and the paper thrown away.  Christmas trees have been thrown out.  Decorations have been taken down.  Christmas is over.
    Or is it?  Actually, today, Friday, January 3, is the tenth day of Christmas.  You remember the song, the Twelve Days of Christmas?  That song is based upon the fact that there are actually twelve days in the Christmas season. 
    In our modern society, we think of the Christmas season as starting right after Thanksgiving and ending on Christmas Day.  However, the church has long held that the season of Christmas begins at midnight on Christmas Eve and runs through midnight on January 5, making the Christmas season twelve days long.  The twelve days of Christmas.  Most of the world actually celebrates the “big day” on January 6, which is The Epiphany of Jesus – a day when we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men, a day that symbolizes Jesus being “revealed” to the whole world.
    So, in that sense, Christmas is not over.  In addition, even after Epiphany, even after January 6th, even after the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmas is still not over.  Christmas is not over because Jesus is still here.  God is with us – even now.
    The Gospel of John tells us, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…”
    William Barclay, the well-known Bible commentator of a few generations past, is convinced that John wrote the fourth gospel for the sake of this fourteenth verse.  Early in the first chapter John talked about the Word:  the creative and dynamic word.  The Word was the agent bringing about creation.  Then John states an incredible, startling fact unheard of in his first century world:  the Word, the power, the dynamic, the reason that orders and controls the world “has become flesh and dwells among us.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Leonard Griffith, an outstanding pastor in Toronto, tells the story of a mother who was putting her little daughter to bed in the midst of a thunderstorm.  She told her daughter that she did not need to be frightened because her mother and father were close by in the living room.  The girl replied to her mother, “Mommy, but when it thunders this way, I want somebody who has skin on.”
    My wife Katy has these little sayings that we have come to call “Katyisms,” like “Life is not fair, the Fair’s in October.” Or “You are only young once, but you can be immature indefinitely.”
    Well, one of her Katyisms is this:  “Jesus is God with skin on.”
    The invisible spirit of God was clothed in skin—flesh, and blood—and came to live among us with grace and truth.  That is the continuing truth of Christmas.  God is with us still.
     (The Rev. Al Henager is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Heber Springs, Arkansas.  He can be contacted at alhenager@gmail.com.)
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