Christmas Letter 2013

from Joe & Elaine Vandegriff

We look forward to hearing from family and friends and catching up with you. And, of course, we like to share our news as well. So here it is.

Road Trips: we took even more trips this year and they just keep getting better. We did the longest trip yet to escape the Texas summer heat. We called ourselves “heat refugees”. For 2 months we visited many sights and family; it was fantastic! Then again in November Elaine’s niece was married in Jacksonville, Florida and it was like a mini reunion for her family. What fun!

Elaine’s parents have survived another year. Her dad is now in a different facility, on Memory Lane, a unit for people with dementia. Mother is able to live by herself in their assisted-living apartment. Both are 93 years old. Almost every road trip takes us to Indiana to see them.

Jon & Sharon, our Maryland family, continue with home-schooling. Other activities include theatre, photography, robot design, basketball, 4-H club, swimming and horse-back riding. We are glad Ellie has been accepted at Taylor University where her dad and grandparents went.

Joan & Hubert have both girls in middle school this year; Dessie studies French, Cora is learning Spanish. They keep busy with gymnastics, tennis and piano lessons, hiking, and cooking, besides fun with friends and cousins. They live in Austin, only about 25 miles from us. Yeah!

Joe & Elaine at Niagara Falls
Jon & Sharon
Joan, Dessie, Cora & Hubert
— Lincoln, 9 — Johan, 15 — Celeste, 12 — Dessie, 13 — Ellie, 17 — Cora, 11 —
(It was a very HOT day in Colonial Williamsburg this day and we were all Hot, especially Dessie!)

A Christmas Message

from Joe Vandegriff: official Grandpa, arm-chair theologian, feeble follower of Jesus.

How Best to Observe Christmas

At the heart of the biblical Christmas story is God coming to earth. Incarnation is the theological word for this. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” There is deep meaning and mystery in this far beyond what I understand or could write about here, but I will offer a couple of thoughts.

1. The Christmas message is that the great God of creation desires connection with us, his children, made in his image. When I look at a clear dark night sky or peer at majestic mountains or the distant horizon from the seashore, it is easy for me to think of God as creator. But the idea that this Creator of galaxies is interested in me and you, knows us and cares deeply, is not so obvious. Yet this is the Christmas story – God reaching out to his world, to his children, because God desires to be in relationship with us.

2. Divinity becoming flesh has huge implications for the human condition. Jesus, being fully human, has demonstrated the full human potential. What would a life look like that was fully yielded to God and full of God’s spirit? Look to Jesus and we will see that life. This is what God is calling to his children, to live in full connection with God. This life is full of power, humility, and love. It is our personal mini-incarnation of God in the world.

The deep meaning and mystery of the incarnation are easily lost in our Christmas commotion. Our frienzed focus on giving gifts is superficial at best and a gross diversion at worse. The Christmas God who reaches out to his children longs for our response – a response more than just a nod before we go about the rest of our life. Jesus not only shows us the extent of God’s love for his children but also how to live out our response to God’s love.

I believe this love of God extends to all people including those of other beliefs and even no beliefs. “For God so loved the world…”. I believe the Creator is seeking relationship with all his children to draw all people into his life and love. For those of us who celebrate Christmas, the best way to observe it would be to become ourselves an incarnation of God’s spirit of love and become a part of God’s reaching out to all people. Then maybe the world will see and know the full extent of God’s wonderful love that comes to all people at Christmas.