First Baptist Church
Hanging of the Greens
December 3, 2017
One could debate the best Christmas book for children. Truth be told, I am not sure I could say which one is my favorite either. In fact, it might just depend on the day. But, to be sure, one of my favorites is Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express. The book came out in 1985, a full 19 years before the movie by the same name.
The Polar Express is the story of a little boy who looks out of his window one Christmas Eve night and sees a train out front in the snow. The train has stopped at his house and the conductor is starring up at his very window. When the boy goes downstairs and outside, he finds out that the train has come for him. The conductor invites him on board and once inside he finds other boys and girls just like himself who are also in their Christmas pajamas. Like him, they have been handpicked and invited on a journey of a lifetime. The train will take all of them to the North Pole where they will see Santa’s workshop and participate in the annual celebration of Christmas Eve in which Santa is sent off by all of his helpers on his yearly trip to visit all of the children of the world.
It is a beautiful story with many stirring sections including its famous ending about the bell from the reindeer that only children can hear. Yet for me, one of the most moving parts that is so easy to miss is the beginning. Again, in the magical story, the boy doesn’t go to a station or arrive at a scheduled place or time in order to catch the great Polar Express train. No, the train unexpectedly comes for him. The train comes to his house and beckons him to come aboard.
In the gospels, John 1:14 makes this beautiful statement…”and the word became flesh and lived among us. And we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” In other words, Christmas is the story of God through Jesus coming to us. Just as the Polar Express came for the boy, God loves you and I enough to come for us.
Why do we decorate homes and churches at Christmas? Well, the truth is that we do so for many reasons. But, certainly we must say that one of the reasons that we do so is as a way of marking this place as sacred, special, holy and set aside. For God, through His son, is coming here – He loves us enough to come to us, in this place, in this season. He loves us enough to meet us as we are and where we are. He loves us so much that we don’t even have to search Him out or go and find Him – no, He comes for us. He has favored us with his presence and as He comes He invites us to jump aboard that we might join our life with His and make the most amazing journey possible.
These decorations, these lights, these signs of the season remind us of who is headed our way. They remind us, with excitement, of who is coming here. They remind us that God in the flesh has come to and for us. As He comes, this is a grand time to recommit ourselves to this journey of a lifetime that we have been invited to make. At the same time, having heard His call, what better time to accept His invitation for the very first time and get on board. Amen.