A Christmas Reflection from Pastor Jim Martin


Pastor Jim Martin of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Weston, WV
Jim Martin

We are approaching the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  The temperature feels like December.  The streets in Weston are decorated.  I imagine many of you have likewise decorated for Christmas.  But the hustle and bustle that many of us love, whether we wish to admit it or not, does not feel right this year for me.  

Even as vaccines are being distributed, we have people who are quarantined and/or sick with the coronavirus.  This is a somber Advent for me.  I just spoke with a St. Matthew couple who are recovering from COVID-19.  I could hear the weakness in their voices that this virus has imposed upon them and their bodies.  But they are recovering – thanks be to God! 

There is a worship service called Blue Christmas.  Some congregations offer this service as a way to help those who struggle in this season with grief from loss of loved ones.  It rightfully acknowledges the emotions and feelings that are experienced other than merriment for those dealing with loss.

This year feels more like a dark Advent.  I go from joy to some dark place seemingly from moment to moment.  I get sad or frustrated mostly in silent moments when I sit and reflect – even as I write these words!  If you have similar feelings it is because we are grieving!  Reflecting upon our collective experience over the last ten months, one cannot be human and not grieve.  Some of us have lost loved ones.  Some of us have lost our independence or some ability:  physical or otherwise.  In the midst of the pandemic, we have lost much.  Even if we have not become sick with it, most of us will admit that it feels like we have lost pieces of our “world.”  Thus we grieve. 

Grief is something that we cannot put away and ignore.   We do not choose to grieve or not to grieve.  That is a false choice.   The only choice one has in grief is either to acknowledge it and work to grieve well; or to ignore it, forcing the grief to present itself in destructive ways:  physically, emotionally, and perhaps, spiritually.  If you are experiencing, like me, some silent moments, dark and sad, know that this is normal.  It is called being human.  

Yet, in those silent moments, the Holy Spirit manages to pull me back and prompts me:   

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).

Darkness, in this season of Advent, or at any time in the seasons of our lives cannot, will not, overtake the light of Christ.  In the silent moments remember and rejoice that the light of Christ continues in your life and in the world.  Let us “pray” the following beloved hymn.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above, while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love. O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth, and praises sing to God the King, and peace to all on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.  – Amen.