DECEMBER 2019: CHRISTMAS GREETINGS

Christmas Greetings to our Gardner-Webb Family and Friends!

For Christians, Advent is a time of great expectation and preparation. We look forward to trumpeting the nativity of Jesus, and in doing so we are filled with renewed hope, peace, joy, and love.

Kim and I feel so happy to be spending our first holiday season with you at GWU. We thank you for the warm welcome that you have extended to us and to our family, and we are grateful for all that each of you does to support this special University and our beloved college town. We have all been called to Gardner-Webb, and our prayers are extended to you as you walk the path that leads us to realize our purpose and to fulfill God’s mission for us.

Christmas brings with it a cascade of memories. Personally, most of those memories remind me of the glorious noise of gleeful celebrations with family around a beautifully decorated Fraser fir. Yet, of all those many cherished memories perhaps it is the quietest Christmas morning that resonates most powerfully with me. December 25, 1995, Kim and I were living in Denmark. Kim was in her ninth month of pregnancy with our first child, unable to travel. We awoke that morning to a magnificent sunrise over the white blanket that surrounded us. Everything outside was perfectly still and quiet.

We read again those familiar words from Luke: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Together but alone in a foreign land, Kim and I were free from the normal Christmas morning mayhem to really think about the true cause for our celebration and joy.

An ocean away from our family and friends, we still felt how global (indeed, how universal) this moment was for all peoples and all nations. As the psalmist wrote, “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice … . The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.” A unifying force in a divided world that, for us, was a powerful lifeline of hope and inspiration.

Now, Kim and I find ourselves in Boiling Springs and immersed in a new life with new friends in a newfound community of faith. Since arriving at Gardner-Webb I have often said that we are a private university with a very public mission. We can be inspired by the Nativity to proclaim the good news far and wide, to remember on this quiet morning that our mission extends to every small corner of this vast world. Isaiah reminds us to “Raise a banner for the nations.” Pro Deo et Humanitate, for God and Humanity. This is our charge and our calling.

In our contemporary and often chaotic world, Christmas Day often all too quickly segues to a focus on the annual ritual of New Year’s resolutions and other earthly pursuits. This year, let us resolve to focus instead on something greater. Let us resolve to celebrate “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3: 5-7).

Merry Christmas, Gardner-Webb community. May God continue to bless you and to bless us, not just this day but all the days ahead.