When you close one door, open another


Christmas is coming again to Lockhart, Texas, the United States, and to the world. You might have already seen Christmas decorations going up and hearing everything from traditional Christmas Carols to Mariah Carey.

The holidays are about endings and beginnings. The celebration occurs in the Winter, when things are dying and coming to an end.

Yet, with the birth of Jesus, there is the promise of new life for people and the world.

Against this backdrop also marks another challenge.

Recently, I learned of another church that is closing. I preached in this particular church years ago when it was seeing better days.

I feel bad for this church. Closing a church is more than shutting down the building, trying to figure out what to do with the brick and mortar. Closing down a church literally has to do with unraveling the legacy of a community of faith. All of the major events a church experiences: baptisms, confirmations, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, etc., come to the fore as recalled memories of church congregants.

I know this from firsthand experience.

During 2014, I witnessed the closure of a church that had a 122-year history. As time drew near to the final service, a lot of people who had been attending left, a prominent couple in the church divorced, another member was so depressed that inpatient psychiatric hospitalization was considered.

Out of death comes life. This is one of the messages that the Christian faith proclaims. The Gospel of John asserts that “the light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot extinguish it” (John 1:5).

Clearly, for the churches that I am referencing, there was the decision to close doors.

One wonders, was there any discussion earlier trying to open other doors?

Was there any consideration of merging with another church, another organization, etc., in order to create any further sustainability?

The life of any church community is more than just the buildings. It’s the people themselves and with the current increase in church closures, it’s the church members who are suffering.

On a recent Sunday afternoon at the Lockhart McDonalds, I saw mothers coming in with young children speaking English and Spanish. I saw a tall musician artist stroll in with mane of long silver hair, beard, shades and top hat reminiscent of ZZ Top.

I thought:

‘Why aren’t these people in church?’

What could be done to create an incentive for these people to attend church?

Maybe church is meeting in the wrong locale? Instead of a sanctuary, maybe we should move into a local McDonalds?

All I know is that the world is crying out for healing, community, and the chance that spiritual transformation may occur for people.

That’s what the miracle of the Incarnation is all about: It’s not necessarily about the birth of a baby, let alone the Immaculate Conception, which has only been in existence since the mid-19thCentury. The observance of this feast began with a Papal encyclical by Pope Pius IX, when he formally defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, INEFFABILIS DEUS, on Dec. 8, 1854.

Christmas is really about a rebirth, a reboot for all of us regarding God, however known, becoming known to us. For Christians, that is in the personage of Jesus.

If you have closed a door recently in your life, what new door can you open? What new experience in life makes that abundant life might be available to you?

This is a Holy Season. May the mystery of this time be revealing and life changing for all of us.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa and may the light banish all darkness for us now and forever more.

May it be so.

Rev. Peter E. Bauer is a United Church of Christ minister. He is the Interim Minister for First Christian Church in Lockhart. He has been a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Medium.com.


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