LANDGRAF: Merry Christmas!

From the bottom of our hearts, Shelby, Hollis Rose and I want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas! We are so blessed to live in the Lone Star State surrounded by our West Texas friends and family during the most wonderful time of the year.
Odessa is certainly a lot different than it was when I was growing up. But as much as things have changed and grown, the small town feel still remains. We know the cashier behind the plexiglass at the gas station, we take care of our neighbors, and we stop everything to come together as a community on Friday nights every fall.
Bethlehem was also a small town 2,000 years ago. And like Odessa during a boom, it was pretty much impossible to find a hotel room for someone coming from out of town. Mary and Joseph were traveling to town for the census, a process that has been improved upon ever so slightly in the last two millennia.
These were normal people going about their regular lives until, all-of-a-sudden, they became the most important parents in history. Thinking back to how I felt immediately after the birth of my first child, I can relate to the simultaneous joy and fear that Mary and Joseph must have been going through in those first moments. Being a first-time parent is terrifying, but being the parents to the savior of the world, now that is a horse of an entirely different color.
In reading through the Christmas story again this year, I find myself taking heart in what the Angel of the Lord said to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock that night. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said, “for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”
No matter how hard life gets, the good news of great joy is the same. We have reason for hope, regardless of circumstance. For Christians, the good news is that Christ, our savior, was born. For everyone, the Christmas season is a time for family and friends to gather together and share their love for one another, a time for those with abundance to give to those who are less fortunate, and a time to focus on others rather than ourselves.
They must be pretty clear on their messaging up in heaven, because the theme of not being afraid is a common one throughout scripture. The Old Testament tells us to be strong and courageous, Jesus tells us not to worry in the gospels, and Saint Paul tells us that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
This Christmas, despite the trials and tribulations taking place from within and without, I will not waste time worrying or being afraid. There is reason for great joy this year, just like every other year. If nothing else, 2020 has provided all of us with an opportunity to prioritize what is most important.
And for those of us going through Christmas for the first time without a departed loved one, my heart goes out to you and my wish is that you are filled with pleasant memories and that you find comfort that you’ll be reunited some day.
My hope and prayer is that you and yours have the happiest holiday season ever. Merry Christmas!
God bless Texas!