But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Hey! What’s with the Scrooge attitude! Enough already! And why are so many people this year grousing, “Bah, humbug!”? This last week it was reported that 45 percent of those polled said they would prefer to skip Christmas altogether because of the financial pressure (polling by Think Finance). Then add to that the people who have even declared ‘war on Christmas’.
But you can count me in for a wholehearted, enthusiastic celebration of our Savior’s birth again this year! I would not be writing this, were it not that it was in my darkest Christmas the true Light shined most brightly on me.
It was the Christmas of 1985, and my wife Melodee was coming down to the end of her long battle against cancer. Both Melodee and I knew, and perhaps our young sons knew as well, that this would be our last Christmas together. We knew this Christmas meant more chemotherapy, more racing to the hospital, more medical bills, and much more uncertainty about the future. I didn’t feel I had much to celebrate that Christmas.
But it was in long periods of sitting bedside in the hospital that I realized that the first Christmas was no Rockwellian Christmas portrait. There was a teenage girl, pregnant with a child that was not her husband’s. There was a baby born in a dirty cattle stall. There were soldiers racing around and slaughtering little baby boys. There were young parents fleeing their homeland, becoming refugees, so their baby would not be killed. But in the midst of all there was “the good news of great joy for all the people”. The Savior is born!
I had preached many Christmas sermons, but it was in that 1985 Christmas I wrestled with what it might really mean. One dark night it finally dawned on me that Christmas had little to do with what the consumer culture was telling me.
Christmas is about God coming down into our darkness to be Immanuel, God-with-us. Christmas is about God becoming one with us that we might forever be with Him. Christmas is about God taking on death by cancer, by war, by famine, by neglect, by despair, so that we might forever share in life with Him!
It was that Christmas in 1985 as Melodee was dying, that I really knew she would live forever. And I knew that in the uncertain, frightful days to follow that Jesus would be Immanuel, God-with-us. He had come down into our darkness and the darkness does not overcome the Light (John 1:5). I have since gotten through the ‘hollow days’ that the ‘holidays’ can be. I have since gotten over the pain of the chair that sits empty at the Christmas meal. But the Light shines.
Yes, I am fully aware that the economy is bad and our nation feels in a funk. But I’m celebrating Christmas again this year with gusto. I know what Christmas really means: the eternal God has come down to be one with us, so that we might forever be with Him. That’s something to celebrate! Count me in!
Grace and peace,
P. S. One thing that has made my Christmas celebration more meaningful every year is to listen to Handel’s Messiah. I hope during Advent you will read and listen to Water from Rock’s Advent devotional based on Messiah. You can read the daily reflection and listen to the Messiah music by going to our website, starting Sunday, December 2.
photo by *Psycho Delia*