Dear Friends,

Good grief. How can we be coming up on Christmas already? This year has gone on for ever, yet somehow flown by at the same time.

Every year we watch The Grinch Stole Christmas several times in December. I can immediately picture the sleigh overloaded with decorations and presents, teetering on the edge of the cliff. Or the villagers standing in a circle singing Christmas Carols even though every physical sign of the holy day has disappeared. Beneath all that just plain good fun is an important message: The feasting, the gifts, the decorations help us celebrate, but they don't make Christmas.

It looks like our Christmas celebrations will be rather different this year. We hope the tighter restrictions announced today by Governor Walz can be loosened again in 4 weeks as planned. Even so, long distance travel will be ill advised, and family gatherings may be too.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus—God's great gift to us. It's about Love. The love Jesus brought to us. And the love we share with the world in his name.

Some things we love to do may be off the table for this year, just as many were off the table for the Whos down in Whoville. But we can still find plenty of ways to share with those we love; and with the poor and outcast whom Jesus particularly calls us to serve. Need ideas? There are any number of great ideas on the net. Some people have been urging us for years to simplify our celebrations and focus more on non-material blessings.

If you buy presents and special food, show some love to the small businesses so hard hit by the pandemic. Sure, you can buy anything on Amazon. Alternatively, you can buy books through Alibris or IndieBound, get your electronics from Best Buy, (a Minnesota company), and If you buy clothes, buy things that will last for years.

Jesus didn't come to be the occasion of a month long party. As Mary said in the Magnificat,

"He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away."

God often brings good out of bad situations. Perhaps out of the pandemic we can bring creative new ways of celebrating Jesus' birth—new ways to love one another.

God be with you,

The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries