Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Merry Christmas, friends. As I sat in the Christmas Eve services (plural-- the perpetual plight of a pastor's child), I challenged myself to take captive the familiar words, to try to understand what they mean and the magnitude of what we celebrate. One theme began to rise for me, and perhaps because it has been on my mind this Advent, but still: redemption, renewal, restoration. The weary world rejoices at the thrill of hope this baby brought to us. God redeems and restores his people, no matter how bruised, broken and damaged we are. He did it for Israel again and again, and he did it for us through Jesus. How blessed we are to have this day to celebrate with those we love (and some we may tolerate), to exchange gifts and follow traditions and be merry. But the true reason for our joy stems from the redemption God brought to us in the form of a baby so long ago.