The Vision of Christmas


In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  Luke 1:26-33

Every year, as I was going to college and then seminary, I loved Christmas break.  When that last final was taken and the sometimes month long break at Christmas began, it was such a refreshing time of year.  Yes, I had to work but I had more free time than at any other time of the year.  Jackie and I were just nuts about being in the “Christmas Spirit.” It was a time for long detailed research, prayer, and Bible study to take place.  It was a time of refreshing the vision that God had given us as teenagers to someday build Washington Cathedral.  And even though that was many years ago, it has always remained that kind of time.  As we started the church and began to raise a family, Christmas quickly moved from the slowest time of year to the busiest time of year.  But despite the busyness, it remained inspiring and refreshing because it was a season of vision. 

What a metaphor for “Light the Night.”  The darkest time of year is the greatest time of vision.  Isn’t that just like God?  And it is true of all life -- the darkest, hardest crucibles of life are always the times when we dream the most beautiful dreams. Dreams that will revolutionize our lives and our world.  The Christmas story is a season of vision.  Mary has a vision, Joseph has a vision, Elizabeth has a vision, Zechariah has a vision, and almost everyone else involved in Christmas has a vision.

Let me ask you a question as I prepare my message for this weekend on “The Vision of Christmas.”  How much would it be worth to you to receive a vision for the rest of your life from God?  I mean his plan, his purpose, his innovations for you and your family.  Join us this weekend I promise you – your vision will be refreshed.

Your friend for the rest of my life,

Pastor Tim White

Celebrating Christmas as a Family

By Pastor Becca McCary
 If you've been looking for some ways to help your family connect spiritually with Christmas, I thought I would share 25 ways to Celebrate Jesus this Christmas. I put some of my favorites in bold if you don't have time to read the whole list.
1. Start the season off right, remembering what it's all about by reading the Christmas story in Matthew.
2. Kiss your spouse under the mistletoe. A happy, healthy marriage is a gift to our whole family and reflects the love of God. 
3. Get a Christmas Tree, remembering Jesus great act of love at the end of his life- hanging on a wooden cross to forgive us of our sins.
4. Sing Hark The Herald Angels Sing as a family, written by the great pastor Charles Wesley. It does a great job of reminding us of the Christmas Story.
5. Go for a long walk as a family, reflecting on Mary's Journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She traveled 80 miles while pregnant to get to her cousin for some support. How can you support each family member in God's calling on their lives?
6. Drive and look at Christmas lights. John 1:5 tells the Christmas story in one poetic sentence. Read the passage as a family and talk about how you can let more of God's light into your family as you turn to God.
7. Read the "Saint who would be Santa Claus" to learn some Christian history behind this pop culture icon.
8. Set up a nativity before bed and remember all the people sleeping in the cold tonight just like our savior did in his manger. Say a prayer for them.
9. Participate in our Santa Claus Conspiracy and share some joy this Holiday! 
10. Make a Christmas card for your neighbor and invite them to our worship services.
11. Pray for all the single moms you know, who have a daunting but powerful calling on their lives, just like Mary did. 
12. Pray for all the families and young toddlers fleeing their countries for asylum just like Jesus did when he fled for his life to Egypt.
13. Order a copy and read "The Living Nativity, The Story of Saint Francis and the Christian Manger" by David and Hellen Haidle. This children's book made me cry when I read it because it told the good news about Jesus so well, while also teaching some church history too. Seriously, check it out!  
14. Have a Christmas party! Laugh, dance, and enjoy! Celebration is a spiritual discipline and laughter heals the soul.
15. Commit to worshiping together as a family every Sunday this Advent. You won't regret this chance to connect with God and find rest for our soul in worship.
16. Tell your family what your favorite Christmas Carol is and why. Many of these songs have such rich spiritual content! 
17. Read "Saint Nicholas" by Ann Tompert with your kids. It has illustrations but might be a little scary for little ones since it is an account of the Christian roots of some of our Christmas traditions like gift giving and St. Nick caring for children.

18. God showed us love, making himself vulnerable, by coming to us as a baby, so that we could be close to him. Over a cup of hot chocolate, reflect on what relationships in your life could improve with more vulnerability and less defensiveness. 

19. Listen to the song "O Holy Night", reflecting on the reverence expressed in this song.  Share with your family members the things you do that help your heart to revere God.
20. Read Luke 1:46-56, Mary's song of praise. Share with your family some of the things you want to praise God for in your life.
21. Jesus' needs were provided for when the wise men brought him gifts. Is there someone in your life that has an unmet need, maybe for friendship or food or prayer, that you could reach out to this Christmas?
22. Joseph listened to God, and chose to love and care for Mary, even when it cost him his reputation. While eating a Christmas Cookie, consider, is there a person or group of people that makes you uncomfortable to love? How can you embrace a love that takes risks and puts others, even uncomfortable others, before your own ego, understanding, reputation, and assumptions.
23. Embrace Simplicity since the savior of the world had such a modest and simple birth. In the early church, if someone was hungry, and there wasn't enough food to go around, the church would fast for a day in order to have more food to share. Take one day to fast from technology to be generous with your time or take 25 days to fast from eating out so you can be generous to people in need with that money. 
24. Put people first since Christmas is about God being intimately involved with people.Volunteer to serve in the church for our Christmas services with the goal to get to know some people better who are in the family of God. Our faith is best lived out through relationships and you might be surprised at how you see and experience God through relationships at church.
25. Take an evening home to rest and connect as a family. Relax, breath, pray, laugh. Watch a Christmas movie. Sleep. During this busy season we often feel to busy for family, too busy to pray, too busy to worship. During our most busy moments are when we need connection the most. God is speaking all the time, and if we can pause to listen, we will be comforted by his sustaining presence.
I hope you have the most meaningful Christmas of your lives this year! Blessings on all of your families this Christmas!
Photo Credit

A Prayer Meditation

This week, Pastor Becca continued on in our series on Washington Cathedral’s core values. She talked about how Washington Cathedral is a place where anyone and everyone can belong.

By Pastor Becca McCary

The sermon on Sunday was on the Mary Martha story from Luke 10. The challenge to the church was to do the “One thing” Jesus asks: tune our hearts into the presence of Jesus for it is there that we find complete acceptance and belonging. Here is a prayer practice to help teach you to tune your heart to Jesus.


(This is a prayer practice meant to be done with a family member, friend, or someone you trust. One person will lead this prayer by reading this script while the other person or people follow the directions, connecting with God. This is a great way to learn and to listen to God by tuning into God’s presence. Let the person leading this activity read slowly and calmly, giving the person or group time to soak in each phrase you say.)

We are going to do a relaxation prayer practice. It is OK to fall asleep, because we are going to practice a very relaxed prayer. God can speak to us even while we are sleeping. It’s also ok to use your imagination to help you connect to God during this prayer too. So if I ask you to imagine God, think creatively… imagining what God looks like, feels like to hug, or even smells like. Our main goal is to be calm and relaxed as we recognize God’s presence with us.

This prayer practice is based on the following verse:  “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

Close your eyes. Relax and get comfortable. Feel the way your body sits in the chair or on the floor and re-adjust as you need.

Take a deep breath in, feeling the air fill your lungs. Now slowly release your breath, letting any worry or tension leave with the exhaled air. Slowly breathe in remembering God’s love for you. And slowly breathe out any anxiety you might be feeling. Take a deep breath remembering that God is offering you peace. And slowly exhale as you become more and more focused on relaxing.

Continue to breathe normally as you feel comfortable.

Let any distractions around you wash away. As distracting thoughts or questions come into your mind, picture yourself taking hold of those thoughts with your hand and then putting it in a jar with a lid for later. Then return to your relaxed, focused state. Hear God’s voice calling you deeper into his presence as you continue to breathe deeply.

Let your body slowly relax more and more as you realize God’s complete love for you. Like waves of relaxation rushing over your body, feel your face relaxing. Your jaw muscles loosening, your tongue becoming still and heavier, and the stress wrinkles on your forehead loosening up.

Remember that there is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less. So even in this moment of complete stillness, God loves you and fully embraces you.

As your neck muscles loosen, your shoulders dropping down, imagine God’s hand gently resting on your shoulder, communicating God’s gentle, warm presence. Can you feel his large, warm hand resting on your shoulder? Maybe God is sitting beside you with His arm around you, or maybe God is standing in front of you, gently placing His hand on your shoulder.

Can you see the warmth and love in God’s eyes as He looks at you? God designed you; He made you; and He is so happy to have your attention right now. And even as you imagine God looking at you with compassion and love, remember that God really is here with us. The bible says “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” The Bible tells us that “God is love.” So any moment that you’ve ever felt fully or deeply loved, draw on that to know that God loves you like that, and even more so right now. You can be completely at home in God’s presence.

Continue to breathe deeply as your back and stomach relax… letting the relaxation flow down to your legs and even into your feet. Feel yourself firmly but comfortably rooted to the floor or chair.

Now as you sit completely relaxed from head to toe, picture some place in nature that is beautiful. Maybe it is a camp site you visited once with your family… Maybe it is a hike you took with friends… or maybe it is some special place you have made up completely in your imagination. How does the air feel on your skin? Is it damp and cold or is it warm and dry? Is the sun shining? Can you feel the air on your skin? Are there tall trees? Grainy sand? Picture the specific place in your mind. As you sit in this peaceful, beautiful spot, hear the words from Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd;     I have all that I need.

 When I am in God’s presence I am perfectly content because I know that he loves me just as I am and is offering me perfect peace.

He lets me rest in green meadows;     he leads me beside peaceful streams.

Can you hear the water flowing?

    He renews my strength.  

I feel the tiredness and stress in my body leave as I totally relax in God’s presence.

He guides me along right paths,     bringing honor to his name.

 God shows me what he wants for me and reveals good ways to live. There is no stress or guess work in following Jesus because God speaks to me, continually guiding me in where I should go.

Even when I walk     through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,     for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff     protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me     in the presence of my enemies.

No Matter what I face, I can trust you to care for me.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.     My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me     all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

And as you continue to breathe deeply, enjoying God’s peaceful presence, I’m going to count back from five as you slowly come back to a more awake state. Five, your breathing becomes a little bit less deep. Four, your fingers begin to move around a bit more. Three, you can feel your toes start to move now too. Two, your eyes open. One, you’re sitting back up.

How did that feel? Have you done something like that before? Were you able to picture God? Were you able to feel what it is like to be in God’s loving presence? Was anything hard about it? The more practice we get “being still and knowing that he is God” the easier it becomes to sense God throughout our entire day.

Like what you hear, but want more? You can check get more information by checking out our website, or you can email us if you have more questions.