Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Judith Johnson "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?"
People who've read Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities will recognize this opening line as a reference to the French Revolution. But I've always thought of it as a pretty good description of the month of December, and all of our preparations for the coming Christmas holiday.
This is the best of times. This is the season that brings out the best in people. Stories abound of people whose hearts and lives have been changed, somehow, by Christmas. There are stories of enemy soldiers who have laid down their weapons and sung Christmas carols together.
There are stories of tight-fisted people who have learned generosity, and cold-hearted people who have learned to love. This is the season when reindeer fly, and when we really want to believe that peace and hope and good will can be established on this earth, and we're all a little more willing to try to do our part to make it happen.
But this is also the worst of times.
In a time when people are giving gifts to loved ones, poverty hits with an added measure of cruelty. In a time when families are gathering for festive celebrations, those who are separated from family by distance or estrangement or death, feel the loss even more keenly, and those who are depressed or lonely have an especially tough time.
This month of December, this time of holiday celebration, is truly the very best and the very worst of times.
There is, however, one part of Christmas that is simply and purely joy; and fortunately it is the very heart of the holiday, and it is simply this: God's love is born in human flesh to save the life of the world.
At Christmas God gives us a gift that no amount of money can buy: it is freely given. And because of that child born 2000 years ago, there is hope � even in the midst of loneliness, or grief, or any of the other kinds of suffering that plague the human family.
That's what the angels announced to shepherds outside of Bethlehem: the birth of a Savior, who is not the solution to all our problems ? but good news of great joy, because in that child God is with us.