– Luke 2: 19, 20
Mary was a meek and mild mother of Jesus, a very quiet, submissive, and contemplative servant of the Lord. Her words were few, but when she did utter them, they were substantive and powerful. When the angel told her that she would be the one who would bring the Christ child into the world by natural birth, despite the fact that she was a virgin, she willingly replied, “May it be to me as you have said.”
The shepherds, on the other hand, handled the historic event of seeing the birth of the Christ Child in an altogether different fashion. Shepherds were on the low end of the totem pole, as far as social standing was concerned, living a very simple and meager lifestyle in the fields far removed from the city action. For them to see what they saw that night was huge – an angel announcing the Savior’s birth through a visual heavenly phenomena, then to actually see the baby, himself, lying in a feeding trough in a cold and smelly animal barn. Their reaction was anything but contemplative. They couldn’t help but go throughout the land telling everyone of the good fortune that had come their way.
It seems that this time of year always prompts us to accommodate both of these responses. I am always contemplative and reflective during the Christmas season. Sometimes I just have to get quiet and still to soak in everything that has happened in the course of the year. I find that an honest assessment of those events can evoke, as an old Billy Joel song says, both sadness and euphoria.
It was 49 years ago this month that the events I have recalled in the story of “Finding Father” occurred. Especially with the last two posts, I have brought those of you who follow this story into a very deep abyss with the recollection of what happened to my father during the last hours of his life. I have brought you to the abyss and have unintentionally left you there. My intentions were to lift the story line into the more redemptive part long before we got to Christmas. However the tyranny of the urgent trapped me once again, and I was forced to lay aside the pen so that I could attend to other things. I promise that the writing will commence soon and that the story will take that redemptive turn in the coming weeks.
Each year during the holidays, I think about that Christmas of 1965, and I, like Mary, treasure it all up and ponder it in my heart. And I think about many other families who come to this time of year and feel the sadness of a loss – a father who will not be sitting around the Christmas table this year, a mother, a brother, a sister, who won’t be sharing Christmas with the family. I think about you and I say a prayer for you, knowing that the void and the pain is real, and that there will always be a hole in your heart during these holidays.
But with the pondering comes much praising. It takes a while for the dust to settle from a busy holiday agenda, but in the hours leading up to Christmas, the spirit of the season comes in with full force. i begin to look at the blessings that are evident all around me and I become like the shepherds – feeling so fortunate to be surrounded by such abundance and having no choice but to thank God for his goodness. There are so many things we can take for granted….just the fact that we are able to rise and breathe in oxygen is an incredible gift. We will gather together with our families in the next few days, exchange our gifts, and eat more food than we really should…and it will be an absolute blessing.
But at the risk of sounding cliche, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that the greatest blessing, the best gift you will ever receive, came 2000 years ago wrapped in those swaddling clothes. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, He came to be a light in our darkness. He is Immanuel…..God with us. During the turbulent storms of our lives, He is our Prince of Peace. When it seems there is no hope, He is our Blessed Hope. And He is Joy unspeakable and full of glory.
So my thoughts and prayers for you this day are to go ahead and ponder….be contemplative and thoughtful. Acknowledge the sadness, but embrace the euphoria. Let your pondering turn into praising and allow God’s grace and blessing to surround you…through the presence of your family and friends that will be at your side.
I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!