It’s wonderful, happy, sad, tension filled time of the year. We all know that perfect families have perfect Christmases, or so we’ve been told. Television specials may present us with people and families who are not perfect, but by the time a magical Christmas Eve arrives, all their problems are solved, and life is wonderful again. The problem for us is that none of us has a perfect family, has seldom had a perfect Christmas, and the difficulties we face do not disappear on Christmas Eve.
Still, there is something so very special about Christmas that we can’t help but look forward to it, expecting to find the joy it promises. As Christians, it may be because Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and the shepherds present to us a Christmas more like the ones we experience. The Word of God incarnate in the baby Jesus boldly entered the world as it is, not the world as Hallmark portrays it. Let’s face it, many would look at the Holy Family as a prime example of what dysfunction looks like, if they didn’t know it was the Holy Family. Mary is what to us would be an underage pregnant teenage girl without a believable explanation for who the father might be. Joseph, a man of some local standing, foolishly risked his honor, reputation, and livelihood to marry her anyway. Shepherds, whom we might compare to undocumented immigrants working in the local vineyards, were the only ones to receive the heavenly message. Who would believe them? Who could they even tell it to? And it all happened in the reign of a brutal, dangerous king known for his heavy hand and willingness to kill anyone who got in his way.
Why? It all seems so dark and scary. It’s not at all what we see on television. I think that’s the point. Dark and scary cannot overcome God’s love for us, nor can it defeat the power of God to bring salvation to the whole world. The opening lines of John’s gospel say it this way: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” That is the where the joy and hope of Christmas make themselves known to those who are willing to come humbly to the manger in the company of the shepherds. The gifts we lay before him are our fears and anxieties. The light of his presence will overcome the darkness in which they have been hiding. If we let it. That is the joyous gift of Christmas he will give to us. If we will receive it.
What can we gain from Christmas? Not renewed faith in the goodness of people, but renewed courageous faith in the power of God’s love knowing that the light we have seen has become the light that lives within us, can shine through us, and cannot be overcome by any darkness. Consider, if you will, the words of a blessing sometimes heard at the conclusion of worship: Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage. Hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil. Go forth into the world in peace. Strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honor all persons. Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.
These are the gifts of Christmas that will bring joy into our lives.
Merry Christmas to All