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The story of the year

The news media is filled with the top 10 stories of 2009.

Depending on who you are reading or listening to, the biggest story of the year is the economy. Things that seemed unprecedented a year ago are becoming accepted as the population struggles with 10 percent unemployment.

President Obama’s inauguration as the first black president in our history was the second biggest story and has continued to receive a lot of press even as he approaches the end of his first year in office.

The health care debate rounds out the top three stories with discussion raging in Washington even as the nation’s capital is struggling under two feet of snow. Partisanship has sunk to new lows as every trick in the book is used to advance either side’s position.

The collapse of the automobile industry would have seemed unthinkable just a few decades ago but happened with a stunning swiftness requiring historic government intervention as well as the layoffs of thousands of workers.

Swine flu spread around the world with amazing swiftness, killing thousands, and yet it appears that we may have missed the potential damage that was once forecast. It still was considered the fifth biggest story of the year.

We have now been in Afghanistan longer than we were in World War II, and that conflict has dropped to the sixth biggest story of the year. It just doesn’t seem right that a war costing us the lives of young American men and women shouldn’t be at the top of our list of concerns.

Michael Jackson’s death was No. 7 on The Associated Press list, although it certainly didn’t make my top 10. I was surprised by the outpouring of support for Jackson as we traveled through Europe. He was clearly a worldwide figure and a talented entertainer, but surely there are other global stories of more importance.

The Fort Hood rampage, the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy and the crash landing of the US Airways jet in the Hudson River without the lose of life rounded out the AP top 10.

The top sports story would have to be Tiger Wood’s activities off the golf course, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with sports. The top entertainment stories have to do with reality shows even though they don’t seem to have too much to do with reality.

Some of these stories will fade as fast as they arrived. Others will find their way into the history books as more of a footnote than anything else.

For Christians, we are in the midst of a story that began more than 2,000 years ago. The story of the birth of Christ remains the same over generations. Even as the commercialization of Christmas continues to take over the last couple of months of each year, the story of that miraculous birth so long ago still breaks through the clutter of information all around us.

If you choose to go to church only once a year, this is the time to go. Christmas Eve. You’ll hear Christmas carols that you’ll remember from the earliest days of your childhood. You’ll see children with their eyes bright and their voices strong. You’ll see parents and grandparents with the latest video cameras capturing yet another unforgettable moment.

You will see or hear about the angels, the wise men, the bright star and a birth in a manger.

You’ll hear about a very pregnant woman riding a donkey into town, something I can’t imagine my daughters doing under any circumstances.

You’ll hear about an angel that appeared to the pregnant lady and told her that she was carrying God’s child, and that it was a boy, and that she should call him Jesus.

You’ll hear, yet again, about the fact there was no place for Joseph and Mary to stay, and how this baby was born in a barn and was laid in the feeding trough used by the animals.

This child would grow up to become a carpenter, like his earthly father. The same nails he used in his profession would be used to pound into his hands on the cross.

In my church, on Christmas Eve, with the lights dim and the candles bright I will hear this story I have heard my entire life. I expect most of my family from my mother to my grandchild to be listening to the songs and the words that sustain me as a Christian.

Along the way, my skin will tingle and my eyes will moisten. I will hold my wife’s hand. We will move up the aisle to take communion together as we celebrate the promises that Christ made to all of us. I will take the Lord’s Supper with family and friends that I love. I will shake the hands of strangers with the knowledge that we hold the same promise.

This is not just the story of the year, but it is the story of every year. It holds the promises for eternity. This is the story that will never fade. As I eat the bread and drink from the cup, I hear the words yet again about the promises of God for the people of God.

This is a story that spans religions and denominations and time. Merry Christmas.