With Christmas just 3 days away, some faces are not radiant with happiness at the season. There are empty chairs around a festive table and one or more of those chairs will be empty at dinner. Some are tethered to their phone in hopes that today is the day the wayward child will call. Some already have the diagnosis that will impact the next year. Some, fearful of a variant, will abandon visits. Some have no happy memories of Christmas past and thus have no hope for Christmas present. For far too many, Christmas is a season to endure.
In 1990, Jack Hayford wrote in Moments with Majesty that Christmas can be “wrapped”. Wrapped in disappointment, hurt, loneliness, anxiety, or fear. He asks, “How many varieties of death wrap a God-appointed celebration of life?”
The first Christmas was “wrapped.” An unwed pregnant teenager traveling miles and miles with her betrothed, not the father and ending up in a barn full of animals and filth in full labor. Joseph was going to Bethlehem to register, to be tracked and counted. The Israelites were under a repressive regime that threatened their religious freedom daily. Sound familiar?
Remember that the prince of darkness did not easily relinquish his earthly dominion to this babe of Bethlehem. The entire story of the gospel records Satan’s efforts to stop this baby from his mission. Starting in a barn in Bethlehem.
Today’s infant mortality rate is 2.9% in a sterile, hospital environment with the knowledge of a highly trained physician and the technology to literally stall death. During the Middle Ages, almost half of all babies born died. I have to wonder what chance a baby and mother had in a barn on a cold winter night with a teenage boy attending? When the baby thrived, a wicked king ordered the death of every Jewish boy under age 2 in yet, another effort to kill this baby before his time. Still unsuccessful, thirty years later, this same enemy would approach this now grown baby and try again to thwart his life’s mission. Three years after that, he would celebrate the physical death of the baby he had failed to destroy. But, three days later, the babe of Mary, the son of man and God would again prove his resiliency.
If your Christmas is wrapped in pain, fear, disappointment, grief, heartache, or loss, consider; as Hayford does, that “The one who sought to murder the babe of Bethlehem now seeks to ruin your celebration of His coming.”
Before you unwrap the presents this year, unwrap Christmas. Celebrate the victory that began in a manger.