(This appeared as part of my annual Christmas letter to the congregation)
Dear Jesus of Nazareth, Saviour of the World:
You are not born yet. Your mother is in her third trimester. People have been gossiping about who the father is. But we know that the father is the Father. We eagerly await you. Wise men are also seeking you, so perhaps we’ll tuck this letter in one of their camel sacks on their way through.
We have heard of your mother’s pregnancy from the prophecies and are waiting—we are like a child lost at a fair, eagerly expecting mom or dad to burst through the crowd to save us from the confusion and chaos. We hope. Like a beggar with open hands.
“We” are your followers from Westminster in Barrie, Canada. According to the internet, Barrie is about 9287 kilometres from where you’ll be born in Bethlehem. We call you the “Saviour of the World.” You have a lot to live up to! We know you will. Some will see it; many won’t.
We’re afraid to report that your birthday has already become a little messed up. It seems a lot of people want to go to your party, but never mention your name. I guess we can call them party crashers. In fact, a lot of people have stopped celebrating you, and have started to focus exclusively on a person called Santa Clause. He’s not a totally bad guy—after all, he helps with the party.
But we’re concerned that to some people he’s taking centre stage. We’re sure you know who he is, but in case not, here’s a little background: He is the hand-me-down of Saint Nicolas who was also a follower of yours, known for leaving gifts for poor children. Kids write lovely letters to Santa asking for gifts.
But we had an idea: Since you’re the Saviour of the World, why not write a letter to you instead? So here’s our “wish list.” It’s a bit forward of us—but we need you.
Jesus of Nazareth, Saviour of the World, help us to always keep our eyes focussed on you in a world that is incredibly efficient at distractions. Don’t let the flashy lights of success, violent TV shows and selfish pursuits divert us from simple worship and those in need.
Help us to be honest, and admit that we are often a part of the problem: We say we love you, but don’t always act like it. When people look at us as your followers, they don’t often see anything different. We’re sorry. Help us to be a people who are very different from the terrified world around us. Make us hope heralds and champions. Your prophets of promise.
Yes, sometimes we shine like the stars of your eyes, and for that we are thankful. All praise to you! But remind us that the road to eternity is the narrow one. You will walk it. And show us the way.
Remind us that love isn’t always easy. If it was you wouldn’t have had to die for us—or be born for that matter. When we are weary, be the wind that breathes “Alive!” into our lungs. Be the rope at the end of our rope. Give us a nudge once in a while to cease and desist from the hamster wheel of busyness and smell the roses. Remind us that every moment of innocence and beauty is a freckle on the cheeks of God’s smiling face.
Help us to be humble. And wise. Take our blinders off, so that we can see the world as it really is, uninhibited by the eye patch of cynicism.
Be with us in our inevitable sorrow. For those we love who have died, embrace for us until we see them again. Inject our work with dignity. Help us be brilliant parents. Let us be children who honour their mothers and fathers.
Give us the words we need when we stutter in your defence. When we think we’re not important remind us that we are not what we do—but rather, we are whose we are. Make us be the kind of friends who change the world—if even for just one person.
Give us the courage to worship you, the One we cannot see but who is seen in everything. May our hands be your hands, bandaging the wounded, stitching hope in our world’s dark places. Remind us that we were made on purpose and for a purpose. And that it is never too late. That you’re the Saviour of second chances. That your door is always open. Arms ready to lift us high in homecoming. And that your love is not just for saints, but for sinners—and that means us.
Remind us that your church isn’t a “thing,” but normal people powered by you. Grant us motivation to bear life-giving fruit; and patience to know that this kind of farming is a work in progress—in us and in others. Give us an appetite not only for bread, but for your Book. Take us from being prayer privates to prayer majors. With our crackling voices, give us the melody of angels.
Jesus of Nazareth, Saviour of the World, we know it’s a big wish list. Forgive us. But we want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. And we know that celebrating Christ mas with a capital-C and a small space behind the “t” means that only you can truly help. We love you. The manger of our hearts is ready.
Signed, your grateful servants at Westminster. Happy birthday! Oh, one more question: What do you want for Christmas? Oh, right… Us.
On behalf of your Westminster,