Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Advent and Christmas 2003


“Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...” --Luke 2:10 (BCP)

 

A cheerful sales clerk in a national retail store was extending the familiar “merry Christmas” to customers as they left the cash register with their purchase. It was the first time this season that I was wished a merry Christmas. The sales clerk’s greeting got my attention. Last year some businesses instructed their sales people not to extend a “merry Christmas” to customers. When the media made this policy public, the store cited the desire not to offend those who not celebrate Christmas. Many Christians, indeed many people in general, thought the decision a poor one. The offending word in the phrase merry Christmas is, of course, the word Christmas which comes to us from the old English phrase Christ’s Mass. Christians, therefore, can be forgiven in advocating that society “put the Christ back in Christmas”.

 

When it comes to Christmas greetings, the oldest one I know of is found in the Gospel of Luke. It is a distinctively Christian greeting. The angels, at the birth of Jesus, announce to the shepherds: “... I bring you good news, news of great joy for the whole nation...” (Luke 2:10b R.E.B.) The greeting heralds great joy that is accompanied by great substance. The good news is that God pours out his love and commitment to the world in the person of Jesus who is deliverer, messiah, and Lord. The love of God is manifested in the simplicity of the stable. God brings greetings and redemption to the whole nation, including those like the poor shepherds working in the cold dark hill country of Judea. Those often forgotten or invisible to the world are remembered first by God. The greeting of the angels to the shepherds provides an example of the way in which the Christian community should greet the world. We are called to greet the world with the message about God’s love in our midst; but we are called to do so with sincerity and substance. That is the perhaps the second reason why the sale clerk’s greeting was memorable. I don’t know what religious conviction, if any, the clerk professed. However, I found in the greeting a sense of joy about this season. The sales person both said, and meant, “merry Christmas”.

 

Christmas, for Christians, is the celebration of the birth of our Lord. I hope the Christian community will be able to do at least three things as part of nativity celebrations. I hope we will act towards both neighbour and stranger in a manner that is indicative of the good news of Christ; I hope we will celebrate in eucharistic worship the birth of The Christ child; I hope our birthday greetings on behalf of The Christ child will be cradled in the birth of new life within us. May we proclaim a merry Christmas to all people of good will.

 

The Rev. Rod Gillis Advent and Christmas 2003

 

Source of light and gladness, accept all we offer you on this joyful feast.  May we grow up in him who unites our lives to yours;for he is Lord now and forever. -B.A.S. p. 273