Christmas is a mere six months away. Many churches, like my first church in West Jefferson, N.C., where I was an associate pastor, have Christmas in July celebrations and festivities that often coincide with the community’s own festival to prepare for the impending onslaught of commercialization and holiday delirium.
Lately I’ve been thinking of the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel in my own personal commemoration of Christmas in July. The famous opening passage of the first verse goes something like this, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” Can you believe that the story of the incarnation started with an empire wanting to have a conversation around taxation? God is a God of miracles after all.
In the fullness of time Jesus came to us — and he came through decrees and through edicts and through subverting the very meaning of what the empire was trying to do. Perhaps that is our greatest gift, to know that God would even talk taxes to reach us in our failed state. Believe it or not, I am learning that in my own life in a tangible way.
Last week a decree came down from the Superior Court in Catawba County that two girls left in the care of the Department of Social Services were decreed adopted in the State of North Carolina by Robert and Stephanie Lee. The signature of the judge was affixed, and now the world knows that I have a forever family — a family worth celebrating and living for, a family worth making this world better for, a family that is love and will fight for love. I am officially a dad.
While I dare not compare my children to Christ, I do feel the awe-inspiring love of God when I see them. I know they have bucked a trend in the system and found a place that is forever. We, too, are on that journey; we are all foster children yearning for forever. We are all in need of the decree of adoption from our heavenly parent who will one day bring us home.
Perhaps now your church and community should find ways to invest in the foster care system. While I know resources are thin, the need is great. Not everyone is called to be a foster or adoptive parent, but we are all called to care for the widow and the orphan.
As your church and community celebrate Christmas in July or as you prepare for the long days of summer, think of how you best can shine a light in a part of your community that needs it most. My prayer is that our decrees will look a little less like Caesar Augustus’ and more like the ones I hold in my hand — precious reminders that love is possible. We have work to do.
Rob Lee is the author of three books and pastor of Unifour Church in Newton, N.C. A graduate of Appalachian State University and Duke Divinity School, he lives in Statesville, N.C., with his wife, two daughters and his poodle.