May You Have a Merry Christmas
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Dr. John H. Leith (1919-2002) enjoyed Christmas. He appreciated it especially as a celebration of the goodness of this world that God not only created but also, in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, entered, blessed with his presence, and redeemed. And at Christmas he especially wanted to be in contact with, and to minister to, those whom he loved, those whom he had taught, and those whom he cherished as colleagues in the Christian and Reformed ministry of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care.
This little book comprises a collection of Leith's Christmas letters to his former ministerial students at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. The letters grew lengthier and richer through the years. We have gathered them here so that others may enjoy reading them also.
""John Leith's letters were unlike any others I received at Christmas. He was not 'breezy,' but theological and pastoral. He did not catch us up on Anne, Henry, and Caroline, but on the likes of Calvin, Niebuhr, and Outler. His news was not family news, but news concerning 'God was in Christ."" If you want to read about that good news of Christmas and what it means for the world and the church, I commend these letters.""
Second Presbyterian Church
""For years the beginning of the season of Advent was marked by the arrival of John Leith's Christmas letter. I still have many of the letters. Now a new generation and a wider audience will have access to John Leith's witness to Christmas as a time when the most profound theological affirmation gives rise to the most precious of human sentiments leading to a renewed sense of the wonder and goodness of the created order.""
--Allen C. McSween
Greenville, South Carolina
""John Leith's Christmas Letters are a rare combination of a great theologian's awe in the face of the mystery of the incarnation coupled with a child-like appreciation of the sheer joy and wonder of Christmas.""
--William P. Wood
First Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
""For many years, John Leith wrote a Christmas letter to his students and friends. Some of us were fortunate to receive them all. Now they are available in one collection. Contrary to the nay-sayers who attack the modern celebration of Christmas, John Leith saw the best in the celebrations--incredible music, fine food, good friends, and, of course, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. This is a profound treasure for the Church to see the true value of one of our major celebrations of God's graciousness.""
Retired Presbyterian pastor
Oak Island, North Carolina
""Graduating from Union Theological Seminary in 1972, I was thrilled to received Dr. Leith's Christmas letter the following year . . . His letters, like his life and his lectures, helped young pastors feel connected and valued as colleagues and we found encouragement, insight and inspiration for our personal lives and our pastoral duties in these annual missives. I still recall the sadness when they could no longer be sent.""
--Daniel W. Massie
First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, Charleston, South Carolina
About the Contributor(s):
John H. Leith (1919-2002) was the Mary Elizabeth Pemberton Professor of Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, where he served the church as a theologian and teacher from 1959 until his retirement in 1990. Of his many books are Assembly at Westminster: Reformed Theology in the Making, An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition: A Way of Being the Christian Community, and John Calvin's Doctrine of the Christ