by Molly Ruch
This coming Sunday, December 29th, we will continue our tradition of replacing the sermon with testimonies of God’s faithfulness. This service has been a highlight of the year as members of all ages share with the church family what God has done and what God is doing. In light of this, I’ve been reflecting on the Christmas story and the testimonies of its characters that are so dear to us.
After Mary is told of her pregnancy, she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth says of Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” And why did Mary believe? Her testimony gives us the answer. In what is now known as the Magnificat, Mary recalls the mighty deeds of the Lord. She gives a testimony of God’s past faithfulness to His people– “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” Her belief is strong because she remembers what God has done. This is one of the reasons we gather together to share what God has done in our lives: to strengthen our belief.
The shepherds of the Christmas story provide another reason why we share testimonies of God’s work in our lives: it is a way of praising God together. We have a nativity set at our home that is quite extensive; the reason being that every year my parents give each of our children a new figurine. Someday, when they set up their own home, they will each take with them a nativity set. And while we do not set out multiple Holy Families, you can see that we have quite a number of people attending the birth of Christ.
But maybe this is how it really looked that night. We are told that after the shepherds saw Jesus “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Perhaps many of those amazed people also came to see the Christ child and worship Him. And as we share on Sunday about how God has worked in our lives, perhaps we too will be amazed. I know I am always deeply blessed by the stories of God’s faithfulness and my worship of God is enriched.
Our nativity set has many imaginary characters but two real and well-known Christmas story characters are absent. Instead of traveling to see Jesus, the infant child came to them. When Jesus was just eight days old, his parents presented him in the Temple in Jerusalem. Simeon and Anna were there to meet him and both bore testimony to his coming to others. Luke tells us that coming up to meet Jesus, Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. “ So this Sunday, I encourage you also to speak out about that child, now our Lord, who has redeemed you.