Christmas Messages

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It’s Christmas morning. The living room is awash in crumpled wrapping paper, toys that beep and blink and boxes of sweaters, robes and slippers.

The next thing that is on everyone’s mind is the upcoming feast for Christmas Day. Not necessarily going to church.

But whether the Christmas Day service brings out a few or many, local members of the clergy take seriously the message they wish to give their flock, hoping they will meditate on those words throughout the day.

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Every message reflects the meaning of the day — the birth of Jesus Christ. But each pastor has special themes he or she wishes to offer.

For the Rev. David L. Ritchie, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran in downtown Ironton, the story of Christmas is the story of salvation for each and everyone, he said.

“The angel is bringing us good news. This birth is for us. A gift from God for us,” Ritchie said. “Our salvation has begun through the birth of Christ. The birth of the baby Jesus and the death and resurrection of the man Jesus, they are linked. You cannot have one without the other.

“You can’t have the cross without the birth. The birth without the cross,” he said.

However, with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday as people spend more time at shopping malls, baking and visiting, this meaning of Christmas can be forgotten, Ritchie said.

“Christmas is a wondrous season. We need to take time and daily remember our salvation is given to us in our baptism,” Ritchie said.

For the Rev Sallie Schisler, vicar of Christ Episcopal Church, also of downtown Ironton, the Christmas message is also one that should be kept alive in all Christians.

“The message is that Christ needs to be reborn in us every year so that we can live whole and full lives,” Schisler said. “And when you think about it, Mary kissed the face of God when she kissed her newborn baby. While we don’t have that pleasure, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables says that to love another person is to see the face of God.

“We may not get to kiss the face of God, but we get to see the face of God in other people every day, which is probably why we were told the greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

The Rev. Greg Inboden, pastor of New Hope United Methodist Church, said he has taken his congregation on a journey in these last few weeks from Nazareth, where the story of Christmas began with the appearance of the angels to Mary and Joseph. His Christmas Eve message was the final chapter in that story, the birth of a child in Bethlehem.

Inboden said the story of Christ and the hope of salvation stays the same through the years no matter what we are facing in life. Even with the fears and turmoils of today, Christ stays the same. This season during which we celebrate the birth of Christ reminds us of that.

“With Christmas comes hope,” Inboden said.

The Rev. Ronnie Tyree, pastor of First Baptist Church of Chesapeake, said his Christmas Eve message was meant to remind his congregation that while the birth of Christ is a joyous event, it is only the beginning of the story of salvation — that the baby born some 2,000 years ago was born to be a sacrifice for our sins.

“When we celebrate the birth of Christ we should not think only of the manger scene but of Christ who died for our sins and the work Christ did on Calvary,” Tyree said.

Tyree said while we remember each year the first time Christ came into the world, as a baby, we must also remember some day he will return again as he promised.

“And he will rule and reign forever,” Tyree said.