To the Members and Friends of Richmond’s First Baptist Church:
When I had completed my first year at one of my former churches, the chair of the deacons invited the congregation to come forward at the end of the Sunday morning service and express their appreciation to me and my family. It was a little embarrassing. I didn’t feel that I had done all that much and was afraid that most people would just slip quietly out the back door. But they didn’t. They came forward. They patted my girls on the head and hugged my wife and shook my hand, and one of them said to me, “I don’t have the words right now to say what I want to say. I’ll have to go home and think about it.”
That’s how I’ve felt in these last few weeks at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Christmas cards have come pouring into my office along with cookies, candy, and gifts, with bone-breaking hugs and heartfelt words of encouragement. The members of this church seem to be in a competition to let me know how much I’m loved and appreciated. I’ve been overwhelmed by it, and when I try to think of how I might respond I feel like that poor tongue-tied parishioner at my former church:
“I don’t have the words.”
The words that do come to mind again and again are these: “Life is good.” Along with all the rich blessings I have received since coming to Richmond there is a deep sense of satisfaction that I am in the right place at the right time. But how do I say to you, in a way that you can understand it, “Life is good”? And how do I say to you, in a way that you can appreciate it, “You are the reason”?
Maybe the best I can do in this season is to say it, and to hope with all my heart that you will understand and appreciate the warm, strong feelings behind those few feeble words: Life is good. You are the reason. And may the Joy of the Christ whose birth we celebrate and whose love binds us together be yours at Christmas and always.