Posted by Cathy Catalano

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

With these words, the Christmas story begins for Mary, mother of our Lord. As the angel Gabriel speaks to her and tells her she has found favor with God, Mary’s life changes and with that change, God comes into the world to be among us, redeem us, and save us from our sins. This story is such a powerful story that it will be told over and over again in these next few weeks. It is a story that will be reenacted in hundreds of ways in church social halls and on church grounds as donkeys and sheep and children and adults march around trying to impress upon the world the wonderful mystery of what was done at Christmas. I don’t know about you, but throughout my entire life, I have never been able to get enough of this story. There is just something too wonderful to comprehend in one telling, so we need to hear it over and over and over again. To imagine that the God who created us, loves us enough to offer himself to bring about our salvation is simply a story that seems too good to be true. BUT, the story is true and each and every year Christians around the world make efforts and attempts to experience the power of this story to change our lives.

What will be our effort and attempt this year to experience the love of God and the gift of the Christ-child? Do you have plans? Have you given it any thought yet? As I write this article to you, December 1 approaches and Advent bears down upon us. Advent – that season of preparation, that time to give thought to being ready to receive the gift God is sending into the world. Will we be ready to receive it? Will we be ready to unwrap it? Will we be ready to claim it and share it with others? That is what these days and weeks ahead are for; they are given to us so that we may make preparations to celebrate what God has done and what God still does. God gives to us a Savior, … and that Savior is born of a human mother and laid in a manger, and while Mary ponders, you and I marvel. And that is good, that we should marvel. For we marvel at an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God who desires that we be reconciled to Him and He goes about making that reconciliation happen for us. I hope you have begun to marvel, and I pray that you will be present to marvel with all of us as we journey through Advent toward the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ.

I would like to encourage you to look back at the title of this article and think upon what the angel Gabriel told Mary. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” These were the words spoken to Mary, but in truth that are also being spoken to us as we consider what God is doing at Christmas. Christmas is about the love God has for His creation and for his children. It is about the love God feels for you and me, and how He wants to be present with us always. Constantly, God is sending greetings to us, blessing us, and claiming us as His own. Daily, the Lord is with us, walking with us through life and helping guide our lives in ways that have every opportunity to bring us closer to Him through the gift of His son Jesus Christ. Truly, we can hear Gabriel’s words, and understand that these words apply to us too. God greets us daily. God is with us daily. And God loves us every day.
As we think of Christmas this year, would it be too much to ask of us that we get involved in the story? Not just that we hear it, but that we live it. Let us awaken everyday to the greetings of God to us, … reminding us that He is with us. Let us prepare ourselves to unwrap the gift God is giving us, the gift of His only Son, our Lord, and to know that in this gift God has displayed a love for us far greater than we can ever hope to comprehend. But hope we do and it is with hope that we approach Christmas, for it is here that for a moment and for a lifetime, God enters the world in a way that bridges all distances between us so we can know, The Lord is with us! Yes, indeed, the Lord is with us at Christmas and every day.

Will you be ready to celebrate Christmas? Are you getting prepared? Will you unwrap the gift God is giving you? Is it possible that this Christmas, we can open our eyes and hear these powerful words of hope: “Greetings, favored one! I am with you, now and unto the end of all the ages, and know, that we have been blessed and that it is, yes, it is, a Merry Christmas!”

Make your plans now to be ready, and join us as together we journey towards Christmas and the manger where God greets us.

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Butler +