It was during the dark winter of 1864. At Petersburg, Virginia, the Confederate Army led by Robert E. Lee faced the Union divisions under General Ulysses S. Grant. The war was now three-and-a-half-years-old and dreams of glory had long since given way to the muck and mire of bloody conflict. Late one evening one of Lee’s generals, Major General George Pickett, received word that his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Up and down the line the southern troops began building huge bonfires in celebration of the event. These fires did not go unnoticed in the Northern infantry camps and soon a nervous Grant sent out a reconnaissance patrol to see what was going on. The scouts returned with the message that Pickett had had a son and these were celebration fires. It so happened that Grant and Pickett had been fellow cadets at West Point and knew one another well. So in honor of the occasion General Grant ordered that bonfires should be built in the Union camps as well.
What a peculiar night it was. For miles on both sides of the lines, fires burned. No shots were fired. No battles fought, only light celebrating the birth of a child. But, of course, peace would not last forever. Soon the fires burned down and once again the darkness took over—the darkness of the night and the darkness of war.
The good news of Christmas is that in the midst of a deep darkness there came a light, a joyous light, and the darkness was not able to overcome that light. It was not just a temporary flicker. It was an eternal flame. There are times, in the events of the world and in the events of our own personal lives, that we feel that the light will be snuffed out. But the Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light that is Christ still burns brightly! And because of Christmas, it will never become so dark that you cannot see the light.
The greatest need in our mixed up and confused world is to let people know that there is hope. That life is worth living no matter what. We should not be discouraged to the point of despair. In Jesus Christ, the light of the world, we can cling to the hope that life overcomes death, that love conquers hate, and that truth will prevail. We are the people of light and we must share that light in a dark land.
It is my prayer that the light of Christmas will shine and enlighten the dark corners of your life and that you, too, will discover the pathway to Bethlehem. Let me ask you something:
How do you see Jesus? What comes to your imagination when you try and picture what he may have looked like? You know the light that is Christ has been reflected in many different ways to many different people. And this coming Sunday I will share the third message in our Advent sermon series “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow!” as we consider the classic spiritual “Some Children See Him.” The chancel choir, orchestra, and handbell choir will also be presenting their special music celebration for Christmas as part of our worship in Traditions at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. I am sure you will not want to miss it!
-Rev. Dr. Kip Laxson
P.S. Christmas Eve is 12 days away and there are four worship opportunities for you here at Asbury that night. There are three candlelight-communion Traditions services: one at 4:00 p.m. featuring the children’s choirs; one at 8:00 p.m. featuring the chancel choir; and one at 11:00 p.m. featuring a string quartet and soloists. The Bridge will also offer candlelight communion and the worship team will lead the service with a bluegrass-style Christmas at 6:00 p.m. Join Asbury on this truly, holy night. I am so looking forward to it!