December 24, 2022 | Steve Spencer
About the author: Steve is married to Samantha. They have three kids, Henry, David, and Amelia. They live in Zionsville. Steve became a Christian through the middle school and high school ministry. He prayed to receive Christ in 1998, sitting next to Scott Shelton in the same Sanctuary seats which we sit each week. Most Sundays, you will find his family and him in the Gathering Space negotiating how much sugar their kids can eat.
And so now we have come to Christmas Eve. This day is marked as the fruit, the end of all the Advent waiting. Very possibly, it will signal gathering. We will come together in some respect, in community; parents, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends. We will celebrate together (and maybe argue too). And if we don’t or can’t do it together, we may long to do so. Yes, community is central to Christmas. It is central to Christianity. Put eloquently,
“There can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion and embrace of community. I am not myself by myself. Community, not the highly vaunted individualism of our culture, is the setting in which Christ is at play.” (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places).
There is no getting around it, Christ forms us in community as we journey with others. But “it doesn’t take us long to realize that many of these fellow volunteers and workers aren’t much to our liking and some of them we may actively dislike, a mixed bag of saints and sinners, the saints sometimes harder to put up with than the sinners” (Peterson again).
Doesn’t this feel like how this Christmas and our lives can play out? The obligatory gathering with folks with whom we don’t want to get stuck in conversation. Or maybe wishing we were in conversation with someone else. Yet here we are.
“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (Jn 1:14 MSG). Imagine it for a moment. Moved into the neighborhood. Moved into the neighborhood, borrowed your sugar, your mower. Moved into the neighborhood and chatted while you put the kids on the bus. Placed third in the chili cook-off. Raked leaves. Showed up at your Christmas party. Redeemed the world. The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.
Well, it happened in a real place to real people, and it happened that first Christmas when God moved into the neighborhood, becoming a neighbor to all of us. So, tonight or tomorrow, when you’re having a pleasant or unpleasant, thoughtful or superficial, “stump” or “shoot” interaction with your community, give thanks to God, who moved into your neighborhood and continues to dwell.
Lord, give us the very heart of Jesus this very hour. Have mercy on us for the expectations we place on our neighbors. Dwell with us this day as you did that first Christmas and shape our neighborhoods as we journey through this life together.