Dear Members and Friends of Orangethorpe United Methodist Church,
Christmastide is one of those words in the church that seems, and in fact, is archaic. The early church did not see the celebration of Christ's birth as merely one day; they saw it as a period of time. In cultures that came out of a European heritage, they celebrated Christmastide, better known to us today as "the 12 days of Christmas." It began on December 25 and carried on until January 6, when the church celebrated the Wise Men coming to worship Jesus.
In many ways, I think our cultural capitulation to commerce (read that: "Holiday Decorations" begin to be sold in stores on the day after Labor Day and are taken off the shelves on December 26) has caused us to lose sight of our own faith heritage. For that reason, I have always affirmed the celebration of Christmastide, a season beginning on December 25. For me, also, there's a practical reason: there are always so many activities in any church coming up to December 25 that I don't even have time to think about a family gathering or celebration until after Christmas Day. We had our family Christmas gathering, as it was, this season, on December 31: that was the only day that all of us could be together in one place.
Perhaps your family celebrations have been protracted, too, because of work and travel schedules for adult children and grandchildren. Such is the reality of today's life. But the fact that you even make the effort to get together is good.
As we come to the end of this Season of Christmastide, I want to thank all of you for your very kind greetings and gifts to Marlene and myself. (Several of those gifts have already been eaten with great gusto!) It is nice to be remembered at this time of year by our church family. I'd also like to thank all of you for your generous Christmas Offering gifts that are helping Orangethorpe UMC to honor our commitments to mission and ministry, in our own community and around the world.
Christmastide is a time for us to see ourselves as part of a family and/or community, one that is not always defined so much by blood or genetic relationships as it is defined by those with whom we surround ourselves, for whatever reason. I'm proud of the efforts of so many in our church to be the family of Christ, and to share your love with one another. I am awed by the number of Christmas Cards (that I never can get done before Christmas, which is why I send out a Christmastide letter!) distributed in the cans in the Narthex. You have indeed been faithful Christians, whom I am proud to serve.
Marlene joins me in wishing to all of you a great Christmastide, a time of preparation to move into this new year as people of faith, ready to see what Christ is calling us to do and be.
Tom Griffith, Lead Pastor