Gathering at the Manger
The following message was shared as an Advent Greeting video with all Christian Reformed congregations.
Each of us meets at the manger with different experiences. 2022 may have been a great year for us – new jobs, weddings, births, adoptions, maybe even a long-planned vacation – but it might also have been a challenging one. We may have lost loved ones, gone through difficult medical diagnoses, lost our jobs, or faced uncertainty about the future.
In the same way, our churches are in different and uncertain places. Many of you have celebrated baptisms and marriages throughout this year. Many of you are experiencing encouragement and unity in your churches. Some of you have experienced many deaths in your churches. Some of you have seen loss of membership. Some of you are experiencing very difficult situations. But whatever the situations we are facing at churches, we all come together as God’s people to meet at the manger.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, is the Good Shepherd. He calls to his flock and gathers us to him, protecting the hurting and searching out the lost. Luke tells of shepherds that searched for Jesus after an angelic announcement. In Matthew, Magi from the east followed the star announcing the birth of a king. People from all around came to celebrate the coming of Christ.
In the Christian Reformed Church we have heard God's call to gather around our newborn King in worship and service. We all share the same hope during this time of Advent waiting for the birth of our Lord. We share the same joy in having a God who made the decision to become incarnate among us to share our own joys and struggles. We share the same gratitude for what Christ did for us, together, as the body of Christ, through his death on the cross. And we share the same commitment to living our lives wholeheartedly for him as we move forward into the new year, 2023.
God has called people of all ethnicities and cultures to worship the Good Shepherd. The third milestone of the CRC's ministry plan, called Our Journey 2025, reminds us that we should strive to be congregations and communities that are growing in diversity as well as unity as we seek justice, reconciliation, and welcome, and as we share our faith, build relationships with, and honor the cultures of our neighbors and newcomers.
Whether you are going through a season of hope and joy or a season of loss and challenge, God is calling all of us to gather around the manger and kneel before the Good Shepherd. As you gather this Christmas season, we pray that you will experience the unity that comes from being there alongside your brothers and sisters who are part of the CRC, as well as your brothers and sisters who are part of God’s church globally.
May you find hope as we gather at the manger, knowing that we are not alone, and that the Good Shepherd is there to protect those who hurt, seek those who are lost, and gather all of us to him. Have a truly blessed Christmas.
Rev. Zachary King, general secretary
Rev. Al Postma, Canadian transitional executive director