LOGAN – We reached out to some local religious leaders and asked them to give some remarks about the Christmas holiday and messages for the community.
The following are their responses:
Derek Forbes, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church:
“I love a good Christmas movie this time of year. Perhaps something a bit too sappy, with all of the silly drama or tension wrapped up by within two hours. Inevitably, near the end of the movie, a character reflects that the true meaning of Christmas is, well… love and family and friendship, or some similar combination.
“I wouldn’t want to argue against those things, for they truly are wonderful, and important. But I’m always reminded that there is just a bit more to Christmas than those important things. When we gather on Christmas Eve at First Presbyterian Church, we recognize the value of love, family, and friendship. In my mind those things are indeed gifts from God. But the words we read from the Gospel of Luke remind us that the actual meaning of Christmas even larger than that. It is to remember, and celebrate, the birth of a child named Jesus.
“What does it mean to us that Jesus was born in a barn? A modern-day re-enactment might have Jesus born in a homeless shelter, or an interstate rest-area. Luke’s words mention the manger three times.
“The Savior of the World, Word of God incarnate, laid down to sleep in a food trough for animals. The birth of Jesus is an incomprehensible arrival of the holy amongst us. I can’t shake—nor would I want to—the incredible feeling I get when thinking about this birth. I am particularly thankful for family and friendship, but I hope that we also make room for something even bigger, for holy reverence. And then may we respond with thanks and love for the entire world. Merry Christmas to you all, and may the peace and love of Jesus Christ be with you.”
Don Woody Pastor Emmanuel Baptist Church:
“I have many special memories of Christmas as a child. Like most children I could hardly sleep as I awaited the aroma of breakfast cooking and sounds of my mom and dad whispering. My brother and I would make sure we were each awake and then head downstairs where we would find extra presents under the tree. Sometimes, I would know what I was getting because my dad would give me a sneak peak of the gift weeks before Christmas by slowly revealing it to me around a corner. Imagine a Stretch Armstrong hovering 5 feet in the air, slowly peaking around the corner.
“Consider how God dropped the world hints of His gift that was coming. All throughout the Old Testament we have detailed prophecies of the Messiah. Prophecies such as the one found in Isaiah 7:14
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”
“Jesus fulfilled those prophecies when He was born, but His mission was not to just fulfill prophecies, but to come and save the world.
“Joseph was told in a dream ‘Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’ (Matthew 1:20-23).
“His mission was to provide salvation to each and every one of us. It is because of God’s mercy and love that He provided us with His son to save us from our sins. His gift, which He revealed to us before His birth, was a gift of Salvation. To really complete the Christmas story in your life, it says in Romans 8:9-10 ‘That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’ I pray that this Christmas you would find peace, and forgiveness by putting your faith in Christ and Christ alone. Merry Christmas.
Steve Sturgeon, Vicar St. John’s Episcopal Church:
“What is it about the story of Jesus that draws us to it over and over again each year at Christmas? Perhaps, at some level, we identify with the longings and desires of the people that lived in Jesus’ time. The world into which he was born is not as alien to us as one would think for an event that took place two millennia ago in a location half a world away from here.
“Jesus was born into a society that was fractured politically, religiously, economically, and geographically. It was a society where the majority struggled to make ends meet, while a wealthy minority prospered. It was a place where the ruling elite were viewed as completely beholden to foreign powers, where despots made conspicuous displays of wealth, power, and military might, and where acts of horrific violence had become the norm. It was a society in search of a savior.
“What draws us to Christ is that, to use a modern phrase, Jesus ‘gets us.’ He fully understands the challenges, struggles, failings, and frustrations of our lives because he experienced them as well.
“Jesus is not some remote deity viewing us from afar. Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is Emmanuel “God with us”. He came not just to restore the people of Judea and Galilee but to restore all of us as well. He came to make us whole, to pay our debts, and to set us free. Merry Christmas.
Richard West, Director of Bear River Communication Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
“Foretold by the Old Testament prophet, Micah, the humble village of Bethlehem would yield a great leader and establish a pattern of great things emerging from small beginnings: ‘though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel’ (Micah 5:2).
“As the angel declared to the shepherds, the birth of the Christ Child, the Son of God, the Savior of all humankind, represented ‘great joy, which shall be to all people.’ ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ was the prayer offered (Luke 2: 10, 14). From the hills of Bethlehem to every city and country in the world, the message rolled forth–The Savior has come and His message is for all.
“From these modest beginnings comes hope for all in this troubled and challenged world. As each one of us follows the example of the Light of the World in our small but sincere acts of kindness and service, we receive more of His light and It shines brighter throughout the world.
“Whether we are as humble shepherds in the fields or majestic kings from the East, our gifts of love to one another, without respect to faith, creed, ethnicity, culture, politics or position create an attitude of inclusion and acceptance. Our simple acts of service combine with those of others to build a community full of ‘peace and good will toward all.’
“During this season and beyond, may we all reflect on the miracle that brought us the greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and may we acknowledge His love for all the sons and daughters of God.