Dear Christ the Redeemer family,

Happy 6th Day of Christmas, and Happy New Year (soon).

Each year during these days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, during the Twelve Days of Christmas, I take time to reflect and pray, to pull back to look at the big picture. It seems fitting: there’s a mystical and beyond-cosmic sense that comes with celebrating the Incarnation, given that eternity has been woven into the midst of time in a new way, with qualitatively deeper effect.

The title of a wonderful Christmas poem by C.S. Lewis is worthy of contemplation along these lines: “The Turn of the Tide.” Lewis begins with a reflection on the world trapped in ever-encroaching death:

Breathless was the air over Bethlehem. Black and bare
Were the fields; hard as granite the clods;
Hedges stiff with ice; the sedge in the vice
Of the pool, like pointed iron rods.
And the deathly stillness spread from Bethlehem. It was shed
Wider each moment on the land;
Through rampart and wall into camp and into hall
Stole the hush; all tongues were at a stand.

He works this theme through many levels of life, from people on a long and lonely voyage to presumptuous authorities to the very cosmos, before, finally, hinting that something is afoot, something that makes all the difference and leads to the end of death:

So death lay in arrest. But at Bethlehem the bless’d
Nothing greater could be heard
Than a dry wind in the thorn, the cry of the One new-born,
And cattle in stall as they stirred.

Friends, it’s worth sitting with our Lord in quiet and prayer during Christmastide. This year what the Lord has impressed upon me is simple, but deeply challenging: Love. There’s lots to say about love, and about love and the Gospel capturing the imagination of Boston’s North Shore, but for today let’s keep it to three things:

1. The tone in our culture these days tends to be negative, suspicious, angry, jealous, even spiteful. It is one thing (a good thing) to notice that and name it, but a far better and more challenging thing is to live on another plane, at another level, to a different rhythm. Which is, of course, what we followers of the Incarnate God have always been called to do. We believe that this is not a “closed” universe, nor one out of reach of a remote god, nor one against the evils of which God can do no more than wring his hands, but is, rather, one that our God created, loves, and has acted boldly in self-giving love to redeem. We are the people who follow the One who loved us when we were yet his enemies, who made the first move, and who had such confidence in the Gospel story that he came in profound humility. (There is a joy in that humility.) He calls us to love even our enemies, and he has the right to ask this of us for he has done it first, when he loved us. We have already been on the receiving end of that very unfair arrangement: we were the enemy who has been loved though utterly undeserving.

2. Love is not sentiment, nor acting as if all is okay, nor always giving in, nor any of those kinds of puny things to which we tend to reduce it. Love is not easy; but it is possessed of an energy of engagement, of an inner strength allowing approachability. Friends, it is true, what we sense: that our faith is oft-despised and not respected in our little corner of the world, but I find that often we return that dubious favor to “the world” around us, and they, too, know how we feel about them. Love is the only way to break that cycle, and the one who breaks the cycle is the stronger one.

3. Along these lines, I am really excited for 2018 at our church. Who knows what the Lord will bring but we have several things lined up which fit well with the call to love:

On March 9-10 we’ll be hosting a North Shore Gospel Partnership event with author Scott Sauls, around his book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.

  • During the spring we will have a focus on healthy marriages and parenting:
  • We will share about marriage at the healing services on 17 February and 17 March.
  • On 10 February we’re planning a special gathering focused on parenting, where I’ll be chatting with two of our own who have parented well.
  • In April we’ll be hosting a one-day healthy marriage event.
  • Our sense of call to care for vulnerable children is beginning to take shape in exciting ways and together with other churches in the North Shore Gospel Partnership. More coming about this next week, here, in Crossings.
  • Our healing conference in the autumn will be about dealing with anxiety, which is near-epidemic in our culture, and to which the antidote is God’s love deeply alive in our inner person.
  • We have a commitment to strong local ministries in Amirah House and Hagar’s Sisters, among others.

These are what I like to call “Gospel-positive” ways for us to live what we believe, sharing our God’s commitment to care for the vulnerable and defenceless; they show our commitment to marriage, to family, to life as a gift from God to all; they are positive and are in accord with the rhythms of those who are simply living to a different tune; the sweet music of our God in the self-giving way of our Lord Jesus.

But (to circle back and sum up), the call to renewed love is, of course, more than events, it is a call to the heart.