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Christmas is different in the valley. I found that out five years ago when I celebrated my first Christmas in Chandler. I was in my church office putting some last-minute touches on that evening’s message when I heard what sounded like a lawn mower! “A lawn mower?” I thought, “Impossible.” Many Christmas Eve’s, I have heard the groan of the snow blower out my office window, but a lawn mower? Never! Christmas is different in the valley.
My second encounter was when Harvey (who was serving as the Elder for the first service) said to me as I entered the Sanctuary, “Don’t worry, Pastor, we have the AC cranked up for the crowd that will be coming.” I was used to the church being a little chilly on Christmas Eve, but for lack of heat, not because of running the air conditioner. Christmas is different in the valley.
Finally, I realized at the last service of the evening that I had greeted folks wishing them a hearty “Merry Christmas” while standing on the sidewalk outside of the church… and I was not wearing a parka! Christmas is different in the valley.
Is Christmas different for you this year? Perhaps this is your first Christmas away from family? You moved to the valley for retirement, a job transfer or just to enjoy the beautiful weather. Now reality is hitting home. The kids or your parents won’t be sitting next to you in church this year or opening presents with you on Christmas morning. Christmas is different this year.
Maybe, this Christmas you won’t have a loved one to celebrate with? Some cruel illness or other cause has taken them from you. As you try to get ready for Christmas; it just doesn’t feel right. Traditions don’t invoke the familiar warm sentimental feelings. You know others are alone, but that is not who you see. All you observe are happy, smiling and loving families. Christmas is different this year.
What I discovered five years ago is still true today. The circumstance in which we celebrate Christmas might be different, but what we celebrate remains the same. We celebrate the fact that we have a God who loved us enough to enter our world as one of us. God comes as a baby, born of Mary and yet, He is the savior of all. We celebrate that through Jesus we have a family of faith standing beside us in church. We are comforted by the fact that because He was born, our loved ones are with Him where there is no disease, pain or sorrow.
Christmas in the valley might be different for you this year, but I pray that the joy of what we celebrate remains the same for you. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Merry Christmas! v