‘In that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them.’ -Jeremiah 30:8
Dear members and friends,
My first Christmas was neither intimate nor inspirational. I was probably around nine when I heard the word “Christmas” for the first time. Near my elementary school was a small church that was painted mostly white with stained glass windows. On a certain day in December, I always heard strange music coming out of the church. But this one year, I became curious to check it out. So, I walked toward the church and peeked inside, opening the door only slightly. Suddenly, I heard a voice from behind, “It is Christmas! You can come in, if you like.” A man with a big smile was standing behind me. He opened the door wide and warmly gestured for me to enter. Inside, there was a group of people singing songs I had never heard before. When I asked about the music, he told me that they were practicing carols for their Christmas service. Then he explained that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. He pointed to a painting and told me, “That is Jesus Christ.” As I looked at the painting, I was confused because it was a western man with blue eyes and blonde hair. On the way back home, I was thinking, “Christians are indeed really weird people who not only believe a western man to be their God, but also celebrate the birth day of such a man even 2,000 years later.”
Forty-one years later, I am a Christian pastor preaching and teaching the deep meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ, and happy to sing the carols. The deepest enlightenment I have ever received from God is that, in order for us to truly embrace the meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ, the change must be made at the core of our heart to existentially embody the message of Jesus Christ in our lives. As Swedenborg emphasized repeatedly, Jesus came to us to enable “love” within our hearts. What I learned from living in America for the past 27 years regarding Christmas is that it is a day which holds fond and lovely memories for many people. And, all this is possible because of the message of the birth of Jesus: God loves humans and wishes that humans love each other. When love is present, God is present!
I hope your Christmas is filled with love from you to others, and from others to you.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee