RICHLAND, Wash. -- I grew up saying it and you probably did too! It's said and spoken in so many different ways!
While we don't hear it at the checkout lines like we used to (and ironically and strangely, some employers have instructed their employees to not speak this dangerous phrase as people rush through on their busy ways), it is still a phrase that is heard around the world!
The Italians say "Buon Natale!" The Serbs will politely offer their "Hristos se rodi!" The Spanish chime in "Feliz Navidad!" Koreans will bid you a "Sung tan chuk ha!" The Cree will speak their native "Mitho Makosi Kesikansi!" while Hawaiians' are famous for saying "Mele kalikimaka!"
You and I know it, of course, as our English greeting, "Merry Christmas!"
One of the reasons I love Christmas is because of its worldwide celebration. Voiced, cooked, sung, decorated and gifted by peoples on every continent and country of the world, those who have heard the message and have come to believe in the enormity of this tiny, obscure Bethlehem story are embracing God's heart for the world.
Christmas is the season when we thematically celebrate that grand notion that God is with us and for us in the incarnation (Matthew 1:23). This is why we call Jesus "Immanuel!" because God came down to Earth to be "with us." When someone is with us, for us and among us, that usually means we have an advocate (1 John 2:1) and possibly a very best friend (John 15:13-14)! That's what we call good news in "Christian-speak."
This Christmas, why not broaden your boundaries and explore who Jesus is through the lens of the international church.
How does the rest of the world look upon the manger? How do they celebrate Jesus, God's wonder of the world? What traditions and special focus points have become a part of their annual way of glorifying God in Heaven for this most amazing story of human need and God's love?
How appropriate that the tapestry of our languages, customs and traditions, often seen in popular art, should all be drawn together to form the shape of a heart -- the international symbol of love.
Love came down at Christmastime, and so it is that love should be returned with grateful hearts and joy-filled spirits!
Where will you be placing your celebration of Jesus this year? What words, actions, commitments and gestures will help to define what Christmas means in your heart this year?
The simple narrative of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1-20) reminds us that from every vantage point, vulnerability looks the same. An unnoticeable story got noticed in a huge way! The improbable and unlikely became the unfathomable and remarkable.
Who ever would have thought that one baby could join so many peoples of the world from every tribe, tongue, culture and nation? Surely, such a person would have to be something more than just a poor refugee.
This is the one, this poor, modest, humble one, who will "purchase for God members of every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9).
Turns out, in Heaven-speak, "Merry Christmas" means a whole lot more than just "Have a nice holiday!"
Christmas peace to all!
* Rev. David Parker is the lead pastor at Central United Protestant Church in Richland.
Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.