Monday, December 22, 2014

So This Is Christmas?

I am sure you’ve heard the song by John Lennon “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over; a new one just begun. Let’s hope it’s a good one with plenty of cheer.” We can always hope, can’t we? Or can we?
So this is Christmas. Have you ever said it with more disappointment than joy? “So this is Christmas?” Somewhere in a family gathering there will be a moment when hearts are torn because the place at the table is empty where a precious loved one had once been. Cherished traditions will be robbed of their joy. Where will we have Christmas dinner now that Grandma is no longer with us? How can we hang all the other stockings when little Mike won’t be here to enjoy his? “Joy to the World” was Dad’s favorite carol. How can we sing it without him? Will we ever have joy again? So this is Christmas.
Somewhere a police officer patrols the streets of a shattered city. His mind is not preoccupied with turkey and mistletoe, gifts and carols, or candles and lights on the tree. Every sense is alert. Every nerve is on end. Celebration is the farthest thing from his mind. Survival is his all-consuming thought. So this is Christmas? A hungry child shivers in the cold, waiting for a soup kitchen to serve Christmas dinner, the annual holiday reprieve from life as usual. For a moment, warmth and food will intoxicate his senses. Tomorrow, it’s back to the trashcans and cardboard shelters, back to hunger and homelessness. When will they ever stop wandering from town to town? When will his mom find a good job, so they can move beyond scratching out a meager existence? So this is Christmas?
Now how do we pay for everything? We charged and borrowed to buy Christmas, only to receive a termination notice two days before the holiday? Where do we find a new job? How do we meet all our financial obligations? So this is Christmas.  Do cancer and caroling go hand in hand? How does a broken body sing,  “’Tis the season to be jolly?” When fear and sickness sweep over you in waves, where do you find the voice to sing, “Fa-la-la-la-la?” So this is Christmas?
A Roman decree sends families scurrying back to their ancestral cities to register. Enrollment means “taxes,” and as we all know taxation without representation is galling. Taxation without representation is oppression and tyranny. The families who go back to their ancestral homes to register so they can pay taxes are an oppressed people, who live with cruel taskmasters and know the bitterness of Roman rule. Can anybody say, “Egypt” all over again? So this is Christmas?
A poor peasant couple takes shelter in a stable among the livestock of the household. There the woman labors. She pants and groans. Sometimes sharp cries escape her lips with the intensity of her contractions. The man waits anxious and submissive, watching, praying, doing all he can do to help the midwife and comfort his wife. A little, rough-splintered trough used to feed the donkey just a few hours ago, now stands filled with moldy, dusty hay, ready to receive a child. This is Christmas?
Depressing, huh? Our world, the biblical world, the human world; it is a broken place. The reality we experience day after day doesn’t change when we wake up on Christmas morning. The celebration of Christmas rarely heals any wounds or fixes any of the problems we have lived into this day or will carry with us out of it into our tomorrows. It was a cry of a fragile little baby breaking upon history’s scene. Strips of cloth are wrapped around his tiny body. His mother nuzzles him close for warmth and nourishment. Does the wonder of the picture still amaze you, or have you gone through so many Christmases that you have become deadened to the mystery? In the fragility of a tiny baby crying at his mother’s breast, where livestock nervously move about, and a weary peasant leans against the wall pondering how he will care for his family, the hope of the world comes. This is Christmas!
The hope of the world comes, and no one notices. The world is oblivious. Babies are born all the time, especially to peasants; and the setting is almost always crude. You’d think someone would explain to them how to keep that from happening until they had a little more financial stability. No one recognizes that hope has been born. The couple in the stable with their baby has some idea. Words of revelation have been given to them. Promises and visions and dreams have been communicated to them that this child is much more than He seems. This Child is God’s gift to humanity: a Savior, a rescuer, the hope, the peace, the love and the joy of the world. This is Christmas!
No one else has the foggiest idea, however. No one even notices the child is born. No king, philosopher, priest, or religious leader is aware. No one knows, until a group of angels break the tranquility of the night sky outside Bethlehem where shepherds are keeping their flock. As they fill the quiet, night sky with their heavenly glory, they announce a message, a word of revelation, tidings of great joy. “A Savior has been born to you!” Jesus is our Savior. He is also our Christ, our Messiah. He is the promised One, in whom all the promises of God are, “Yes!” Every promise for wholeness, every promise of taking up all our broken pieces and making something beautiful again are found in this one called “the Christ.”
If Jesus, the child that is among us is NOT an answer for our kind of world, He is no answer at all! Christmas becomes a charade. Jesus is a fake. The message of the angels is old-fashioned snake oil: high on promise, low on cure. If Jesus is not the answer for a broken world, we need to quit pretending. We need to stop playing the Christmas game, silence the carols, and throw out the gifts. We need to get rid of the nativity scene and make sure we throw the baby out as well. That is if Jesus is not the answer for our kind of world. But He is! Jesus is the answer for our kind of world. For our greatest heartaches, for our greatest sorrows, for all the situations and circumstances that cause us to feel so hopeless, Jesus is the answer. This is Christmas! This is why we celebrate.
The only question that remains is: “Have you taken the one who holds the hope of the world, and held Him in your heart this Christmas season?” No matter where we are in life’s journey; no matter how busy or complex our lives may seem to be; no matter how transfixed we have become with the darkness of circumstances around us, there is a child who comes to us this evening and invites us to experience a birth of hope, the upraising of peace, a love that is unconditional, and a joy that can’t not be obtained anywhere else. His coming is hope that transforms us, transforms life, and makes all things new. This Child’s name is Jesus, sweet, little Jesus boy, crucified and resurrected Savior, coming Lord and King. This Child is Christmas.

Have you taken the one who holds the hope, the love, the joy and the peace of the world, and held Him in your heart this Christmas season? The Child is here, now that’s Christmas!!!   I love you and Merry Christmas.. Tommy 

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