This Advent season, five Regional Executives of American Baptist regions will provide reflections focusing on “What Christmas Means to Me.” Each reflection will be posted prior to the Sundays in Advent, along with Christmas Sunday. For Christmas, Rev. Joan C. Friesen, Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Greater Indianapolis, reflects on “What Christmas Means to Me.” Read the reflection for the first Sunday of Advent here. Read the reflection for the second Sunday of Advent here. Read the reflection for the third Sunday of Advent here. Read the reflection for the fourth Sunday of Advent here.
For me, Christmas is inseparable from worship and the church. I don’t say this so anyone might think that I am holier than most, but growing up as a pastor’s kid my strongest December memories are of pageants and programs, Christmas Eve worship, and the smell of the sanctuary filled with evergreens.
For some reason my parents chose not to teach us to believe in Santa Claus. (I should ask them about this!) It’s not that we were told Santa was a myth, but we simply didn’t have stockings, leave the cookies and milk, or read “The Night Before Christmas” as a part of our tradition.
Instead Christmas Eve was centered on worship and it was often led by our family so that other members of the church (even staff) could enjoy the evening as participants. Christmas Day brought the excitement of gifts under the tree, but it was also significant as our family sang carols and gathered around the table.
Now that my sisters and I are grown and my parents up in years, we find it is simply being together that is our greatest gift. It’s been decades since the adults exchanged presents—we discovered there was nothing we needed other than sharing our time.
This year Christmas Day is a Sunday and I often wish it were so every year. It seems a more fitting end of the Advent journey to the manger. Too often our Advent road has many twists and turns with distractions that take us away from the joy of the shepherds and the wonder of the Magi. As you worship the Christ Child this Christmas may that joy and wonder be yours.
Rev. Joan C. Friesen
American Baptist Churches of Greater Indianapolis