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by Ted Schroder,
Christmas, 2009

How does God show us his love? In a baby, born in Bethlehem, some two thousand years ago. Jesus is the unveiling of God's heart. He shows us that love, not in a statement, but in a person. He comes on a mission of mercy to a hurting world. For what purpose? What is the meaning of this event, called today, Christmas? "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9) The purpose of the showing of God's love in Christ is that we might experience the fullness of life through him, his birth, life, death and resurrection.

I have been listening to Sting's Christmas album, "If On A Winter's Night," which had its world premiere in Durham Cathedral, England, last month. Sting, born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, is a musician, actor and activist who has received sixteen Grammy awards, and is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Although he declares himself an agnostic, Sting, and his wife, Trudie, keep with tradition on Christmas Eve: They go to a local church, sing along to carols, then head back home to their 60 acre country estate near Salisbury in England (one of six homes he owns worldwide). His selection of songs on the album, ranging from carols to lullabies, are somber in tone, reflecting his need to acknowledge that Christmas is not all joy and light for a lot of people.

On the jacket he writes that he appreciates the beauty of the Christmas stories and "how they have inspired musicians and poets for many centuries. It was my desire to treat these themes with reverence and respect, and despite my personal agnosticism, the sacred symbolism of the Church's art still exerts a powerful influence over me....For me it was important to draw parallels between the Christmas story and the older traditions of the winter solstice. These myths and stories are our common cultural heritage, and as such need to be kept alive through reinterpretation within the context of contemporary thinking, even if that thinking is essentially agnostic. However the mystery at the heart of the cosmos, and indeed of life itself, remains intact - perhaps insoluble to beings at our level of consciousness. In the meantime, all of us need our myths to live by. Like many people I have an ambivalent attitude toward the celebration of Christmas. For many, it is a period of intense loneliness and alienation."

Does that sentiment resonate with you? Does Christmas still exert a powerful influence over you, despite personal agnosticism? You may have a reverence and respect for the "sacred symbolism of the Church's art." Do you believe that contemporary thinking may be essentially agnostic, but the mystery at the heart of the cosmos, and indeed of life itself, remains intact? You may not understand or know this mystery because of your limited consciousness. But, you need your myths to live by. You have to believe in something if you are to find some meaning in life. You may have an 'ambivalent attitude toward the celebration of Christmas.' Why this ambivalence? Is it because you suspend belief about the truth of the Christmas story/ Did it really happen, or is it a myth? If you feel that the Gospel records are historically reliable, then what do you make of this interpretation of the events: "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9)

Agnosticism cannot rule out that God may exist, and that he may have sent his Son into the world, so that we may find eternal, life in all its fullness through his birth, death and resurrection. For the agnostic, faith may be possible. Faith can open up doors which scientific knowledge cannot. It is possible to be both a philosophical agnostic and a Christian believer. It is possible to be a devout Christian and to have doubts. But it is impossible to be a follower of Jesus and not believe that God showed his love among us when he sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him.

The Christmas story is about God coming into a world of suffering to redeem it, to bring his love to transform self-centered lives, to give comfort, strength and hope to those who suffer from loneliness and alienation, to move people who have opened themselves to him to reach out with his love to others in need of that love.

There is no better portrayal of this than in the movie "The Blind Side". Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy are members of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Memphis. They took in a homeless sixteen year old, Michael Oher, gave him the love, and encouragement which he never had from his drug addicted mother of 13 children, and the bleak foster homes he had been placed in. His loneliness and alienation was replaced with a family that embraced him as their own, despite the monumental differences in their backgrounds. Michael was a lost cause when he entered Briarcrest Christian School, as a six and a half foot, 340 pound hulk, with zero learning or communication skills, and a profound inability to express himself. He shunned human touch, and was very withdrawn.

Sandra Bullock, who played Leigh Anne Tuohy in the movie said that no one was faking anything. "This family, they were themselves, for no other benefit other than because they wanted to reach out, lend a hand, and had no idea that they would get a son in return." The actress said that, while making the movie, she regained a little "faith in those who say they represent a faith. Wow, I finally met someone who practices but doesn't preach. Whereas before I was like, do not give me a lecture on how to live my life when I know I'm a pretty decent human being. I might not go to church every day, but I know I do the right thing or try to. So I finally met people that walk the walk."

Michael Oher went on to play for Ole Miss, graduated on the Dean's List, and is now playing for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. The bleak prospects of his childhood have been succeeded by the joy of his achievements, due to the love of God working through the Tuohys. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

"Live through him." Walk the walk. Follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let God show you how much he loves you by opening your heart to his saving presence. This is his gift to you this Christmastime.

Follow my blog on www.ameliachapel.com/blog/

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