Evergreen: Leaving exile

by | Dec 3, 2023

Can you believe it’s December already? Retailers started stocking their shelves with decorations a couple of months earlier. People everywhere are recalling and replaying Christmas traditions from Black Friday shopping to adorning their homes with lights and a variety of decorations. One of my traditions is watching Christmas movies during Thanksgiving break.

We titled our series for this year’s Christmas season Letters. And Nancy Naigle’s book, Letters to Santa, from her Christmas in Evergreen series, seems like a good starting point for discussing letters. Sticking with tradition, I first watched the Hallmark movie version of her story.

Lisa Palmer lived an unsettled life. As a child of military parents, she claimed to feel at home in her unsettledness. Traveling to different towns to help store owners reorganize was her speciality.

With no particular plans for the Christmas holidays, she decides to spend time in the town of her birth, Evergreen. Lisa hadn’t been back since her family moved away when she was seven. One place, particularly meaningful to Lisa, was Daisy’s Country Store.

Discovering the store closed and its owner deceased, Lisa recalled her last day in Evergreen. She wrote a letter to Santa that day asking that every Christmas be in Evergreen. Daisy, after reading the letter, suggested a subtle, yet powerful change. How about asking Santa for every Christmas to be “like” Christmas in Evergreen?

Of course, how we view and celebrate Christmas depends as much on each of us as it does on others. But it helps when others around you are of the same mind. For a lot of us, fresh snow adds a touch of magic to the holiday.

We each have memories that triggers our recollection of Christmas past. For many of us, the spirit of Christmas represents an abundance of goodness. Good food, deeds, decorations, parties, and gifts. All in greater abundance than at other times.

However, while the Christmas season may invoke tradition, we don’t all view the holidays from the same vantage point. We’re more often in a different place with different circumstances than the Christmas stored away in our imperfect memories. Sometimes our lives are unsettled. Other times we may feel exiled from the places where our traditions took root.

There will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!
Isiah 35:2

In the Bible, Babylon is a persistent metaphor for exile. And the idea of exile is less about a physical place than the emotional space we occupy. While our views of exile are as varied as our traditions, the consistent cause of emotional distress is the absence of God.

The most prevalent story of exile in the Old Testament centers on the people of Judah after the siege of Jerusalem. Ancient prophets warned of a time of darkness because of the people turning their attention towards other priorities and away from God. The result was exile.

However, God never gives up on us. And for most of us, the Christmas season is a reminder of God’s love for humanity.

The Prophet Isaiah casts a vision of what it’s like to return from exile. There will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! It will be as though all of creation is celebrating. Our outlook turns from darkness to light, from gloominess to joyfulness. God is coming to save us!

As Charles Schultz said through his character Linus in one of my all-time favorite movies, “And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!”

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A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy


Parts of our series was inspired by Nancy Naigle. Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa. Hallmark Publishing. © Crown Media Family Networks, 2019.

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