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December Pastor's Pen

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
The happiest, most joy-filled season of the year is upon us. For many of us, there is a new energy in our steps these first few weeks of the season. We are filled with excitement as we see Christmas being birthed around us – trees and lights and garlands. We walk into a store, and are greeted by sales folk in holiday hats; by Christmas Carols being played over the store's speaker systems.
We are currently in Advent, though, not Christmas. We are in the season of preparation, of getting ready for Christmas. It's not just about making sure our Christmas shopping is done, of getting the presents wrapped, of decorating our homes. It's also about getting ourselves ready to welcome Jesus into the world, and into our hearts. Preparing a place for Jesus to be Emmanuel – God with us.
If you're like me, when I think about preparing for someone to come, I get a little bit panicky. I want to make sure everything is perfect. Are the floors clean? When did I dust last? Are the cat boxes cleaned out? Is the bathroom safe to enter? Have the kids picked up all their junk from around the house? I think about all the stuff I have to do, in order to feel like I have done enough to make my guests feel welcome.
The reality is though, most guests really couldn't care if everything is perfect, as long as they are welcomed with smiles and handshakes, hugs and friendly greetings. So what if the bookshelves aren't dust-free. So what if the bathroom mirror still has fingerprints on it? Who cares if the floor hasn't been vacuumed in a week? Those things are secondary to the welcome that is extended.
The same is true for us at Christmas as we prepare for Jesus' arrival. God is well aware that we are far from perfect, and doesn't expect perfection from us. Just look who God used as hosts when Jesus came 2000 years ago: a teenage unwed mother, a bunch of smelly and dirty shepherds, Magi from other countries and religious traditions; not exactly the perfect hosts. Yet, God chose to come, Emmanuel to that motley crew.
As we prepare to welcome Jesus this year, and in our lives, let's focus less on making everything perfect, dusting the corners of our hearts, making sure we look great; instead lets focus on how we live out that welcome, how we extend it; not just to our Savior, but to all those who we encounter on our journey from the manger to the cross.
May the extravagant welcome offered by the “least of these” to a babe in a manger, be our guide as we welcome the “least of these” in our lives and faith.
May the blessings and joy of the Christmas season be with you and your families.
With the Greatest of Hope!


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