In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:1-2, 14a). Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood" (The Message).

Eighteen years ago this Christmas day, my son Rob was born. Eighteen years ago, life presented itself to my wife and me in all of its messy and glorious wonder. Christmas will always be a time for Jency and me to remember that life has come.

Christmas is a time to celebrate life. You will be together with your mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouse, children … and you will be filled with joy and wonder at all the life that surrounds you. You will be reminded that life has come.

Twenty-six years ago this Christmas day, on a one-lane, pine-covered Mississippi back road, my cousin Jeff died in a car wreck. At age twenty-three, Jeff was my oldest cousin, and I admired him deeply. Twenty-six years ago, death presented itself to me in all of its ugliness and unfairness, in all of its deep sorrow and pain.

One Christmas, life came to Jency and me in the form of our firstborn child. Another Christmas, death came to my Aunt Myra and Uncle Butch and took away their firstborn child.

Christmas always reminds us that death has come. This Christmas you will be without a mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, child … and you will be confronted with the grief, sorrow, pain and confusion that remain with you when death has come.

Some two thousand years ago our Lord Jesus Christ was born. Christmas always reminds us that God Himself has come to us in the form of a little baby.

I once heard a musician, Michael Bridges of Lost and Found, say, "God spoke a word of Love, whose name was Jesus." Using a bit of liberty with Scripture, and keeping this wonderful thought in our mind—God spoke a word of Love, whose name was Jesus—listen again to John's Gospel:

In the beginning was Love, and Love was with God, and Love was God. Love was in the beginning with God. And Love became flesh and lived among us.

Or … Love became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.

Here we have the wonder-full, awe-filled, mysterious beauty of Christmas: Here with us where life has come in all of its messiness and glorious wonder, and here with us where death has come with all of its ugliness and pain, Love has taken human form and moved into the neighborhood! And when Love comes to town, all sorts of strange, remarkable, and unbelievable things begin to happen.

When Love comes to town … every valley is filled in; every mountain and hill are made low; the crooked roads are made straight; the rough ways are made smooth; and humanity sees the salvation of God (Luke 3:5-6),

When Love comes to town ... good news is preached to the poor; freedom is proclaimed to the prisoners; sight is recovered for the blind; release is granted to the oppressed; and the year of the Lord's favor is proclaimed (Luke 4:18-19).

When Love comes to town ... the wonder of life is increased; the joy of life is magnified to its fullest; and the awe and mystery of life blossom forth at every turn.

When Love comes to town ... the ugliness and pain of death are eased; the sting of death is taken away; the power and finality of death cease to be.

And when Love comes to town ... the deeply dug chasm between the created and the Creator is filled in; and God reconciles women and men to Himself.

Another musician, Bono, puts it this way in his song "When Love Comes to Town":

I was there when they crucified my Lord I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword I threw the dice when they pierced his side But I've seen Love conquer the great divide!

Yes, we still live with the glory and the messiness of life in our neighborhood; yes, we still live with the grief and unfairness of death in our neighborhood; but at Christmas, we are reminded that all is not just life and death.

In the midst of the life and death that will be with you this Christmas day, hear the good news: Love has come to town and moved into your neighborhood!

NOTE: This is an excerpt from Bert's first book Elvis, Willie, Jesus & Me (Smyth & Helwys Publishing)

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