Thursday, December 23, 2010

the loveliest night of the year

Tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, with candles and carols we will celebrate the gift that changed the world, Jesus Christ.  Walt Gerber, who for 28 years was the Senior Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and was a mentor to scores of pastors including me, always referred to it as the loveliest night of the year.  If you'd like to join us and see why, you can find all the details at Christmas@Grace.

Tomorrow promises to be amazing, and tonight, on Christmas Eve Eve, as I sit in my study looking over the services I am profoundly grateful for everyone who helps to make it the loveliest of nights. 

I am humbled by the talents of people like Brian Mann, Angela Simpson, Santry and Ivy Rush, Ben and Jenna Kuykendall, Dave Leestma and Aaron Wilson. 

I am blessed to serve alongside gifted pastors, Melissa Brown, Katie Cummings, Chris French, Mike Fry and Jane Pettit. 

I am grateful for the amazing support of Hardie Morgan, Mike Krocak, Michael Elliot, Tami Snell, John Sutherland, Ann Stewart and most of all my assistant Charlotte Tait. 

I am indebted to people who over the years invested their lives into shaping me for ministry: Russ Stevenson, Walt Gerber, Doug Lawrence, Scott Dudley and John Ortberg.

There are too many people to name (and even by starting to I’m sure I’ve left too many off – Doug G., Laura M.. Narda W., Mayda M., Terry L., Wally H.. Howard E. and scores of others come quickly to mind – not to mention Kim, Kelli, Jennifer and Jamie – there I just did).  

Most of all I am simply amazed by the truth we will celebrate and Jenna will sing about tomorrow evening.

It’s true.  There’s a God who came down to find us.  So angels on high sing alleluias throughout the loveliest night of the year.

As we prepare to join the angels singing you might find the following prayer by Kenneth Phifer helpful in preparing our hearts to worship our newborn King.

Merry Christmas!

Eternal God, I wait now for Christmas
I want the Christ to be born anew in my heart.
I hope it will all mean more to me than ever before.
Do not let it slip away into the night
            after the songs have all been sung
                        and the stories told once more.
I know we cannot keep the expectancy alive the year round,
            but can I not keep the meaning warm?
Knowing myself, I ask now
            that the Christ Child may be real to me,
                        tot only in the days immediately ahead,
            but in the days that follow the celebration of His birth.
Let me so receive Him that I may believe
            in His continuing Presence.
Le me not let love go.
Let me not let faith fade.
Let me not let hope slip away.
May the openheartedness be my way of life,
            and an abiding joy be an aspect of my very being.

So involve me in the Coming this year
            that the going will not be quite as complete
                        as it has been in the past.
Help me to remember what it is all about.
Keep my life from being so crowded with things
            that there is no room for Him.
Keep me from pushing Him aside and from being so busy
            that I lose Him in the clutter and the clamor
                        of these hectic days.

I am glad that Christmas means parties and decorated trees,
            wassail bowls and candles in the windows.
But let me remain aware that it also means
            generosity and forgiveness,
                        openness and renewal
It means commitment and restoration,
            worship and wonder.
It means the birth of our Lord
            and the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory
                        of Your love for all people everywhere.

So make me ready now,
            and then when the candles have been extinguished,
            and the trees taken down,
            and the wreathes put away,
May the memory of the Lord Jesus remain
            a present and transforming reality in my life.
For His sake I pray.  Amen.

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