The Christmas Story – A Story for Those in the Second Half of Life

Today, as I complete my final preparations for our Christmas Eve service, I am struck by the fact that I have been doing this for over thirty years. In fact, this is my 61st Christmas. Everyone says that Christmas is for kids. Yet, with sixty Christmas celebrations behind me, most of them happy, some tinged by the sadness of passing loved ones and friends, I still find this to be an especially beautiful and magical time of year.

In many congregations tonight, children will participate in a nativity pageant. But if we want to stay true to the Christmas story, it might be better to have most of the parts played by people like us – men and women who find ourselves in the second half of life. Think of it. Apart from the infant Jesus and his mother, many of the characters in the biblical narrative are older people. There are Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were blessed by the birth of their son John the Baptist when they were greatly advanced in age. There’s Joseph, partner of Mary, generally thought to have been many years older than her. There are those weather-beaten and seasoned shepherds, out watching their flocks by night. There are the magi, those wise royal travellers from the east, who have spent years and years studying the stars and who now make their journey to bring gifts to the child Jesus. And let’s not forget the elderly prophets Simeon and Anna, who have spent their whole lives waiting for the birth of the Messiah. These and many others are witnesses to the love of God born in the Christ child that first Christmas long ago.

The message is clear. You and I, who now find ourselves in the second half of life, have a special role to play in witnessing to God’s love in the infant Jesus. This Christmas, take time to reflect on how you can share the miracle of this holy night. Consider how you can give birth to God’s love in the coming New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Searching for practical spirituality

In his novel, Nothing to be Frightened Of, British Baby Boomer Julian Barnes begins with these words: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.” His remark reminded me of a comment made to me 35 years ago, by a then much younger Boomer: “I don’t miss the Church or all that Sunday School stuff they taught us, but I do miss the piety.”

Today if you ask those working in the field of church and culture, most will tell you that it is the piety or spiritual practices that many people miss. Chief among those searching for a more practical spirituality are those of us who are called Baby Boomers, who in Canada (depending on who you are talking to) were born roughly between 1946 and 1964.

We Boomers are a very diverse group. We also have very eclectic tastes. We draw nourishment from many sources: the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, meditation, spirit yoga, native spirituality, world religions, the arts, eastern mysticism, Reiki, Shamanic healing, crystals, and drumming, to name just a few. While our approaches may be as individual as we are, some things many of us share include a longing for the transcendent and a desire to really live our faith. So, let’s honour one another’s searching. After all, as church consultant Tom Bandy writes: “The point of course is not to attract people into the institution, but to bless people in the name of Christ in ways uniquely relevant to their needs.”