A couple of months ago at a symposium for Bible scholars they were asked, “What can revitalize our churches?” Some of the answers were strictly shop talk – ideas like the emergent church as the church of the future, more contact with the person on the street will help bring them in, or the church should be at the forefront of distributing the resources of the West for the enthusiasm of the South. One of the scholars surprised the adherents by saying that we need to return instead to the vitality of Sunday School, where over the centuries we have learned the Christian story.
Apostle Paul said the same thing over two millennia ago to his co-worker Timothy, “Until I come devote yourself to the public reading of the Scripture.” (1 Timothy 4:13a) The reading of the Scripture was important at family gatherings and public gatherings because this was one of the ways that people learned the stories.
In the introduction to the book of Exodus we find these words, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.” (Exodus 1:8) This new king was not aware and no one told him that Egypt survived because God has spared it through the presence of Joseph and the Israelites. Because he did not know, he started to persecute those who had saved his nation. Joseph, the messenger of the blessing, and his people became the enemy of the state.
When I listen to people talk about their Christmas stories, inevitably the word tradition is mentioned. People talk about all sorts of traditions. There are traditions that they have inherited from their ethnic backgrounds. There are traditions that stayed with them from the time that the grandchildren have inherited from their grandmothers and grandfathers. There are traditions that newly married wanted to start in their new homes.
As a pastor I usually ask, “And who reads the Christmas story?” Many times I have been delighted with stories about families that on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day bring out their heirloom Bible that has the family tree in it and they read together. All of the family participates in the reading, from the oldest to the youngest. However, I have also been surprised by someone saying, “In our home it is very difficult to find a Bible on Christmas Day. There are so many gifts, so much commotion and so many conversations, that we do not have time for the Christmas Story.”
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Therefore, on this Christmas Eve or Christmas Day I encourage you to find your family Bible and read the Christmas story. Read the story from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 verse 26 though chapter 2 verse 20. Then go to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 2 verse 23. It will take about 20 minutes. After reading the Christmas Story, invite one person to give a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift that God has given to your family in His Son Jesus Christ who you have invited to be your Savior and Lord.
Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!