Points to Ponder week of Dec. 5

The popular notion is that Christmas is a time of celebration: bright lights, happy songs, and colorful wrapping paper! Here we go a wassailing once again.

But for some of us, the Christmas season is just as dark and gloomy as the weather outside. The nights grow longer with the cold and dark, and our souls feel the weight of that darkness. The bright lights and merry greetings leave us cold and wanting.

Here is something you should know about celebrating this holiday—it has always been a time of joy and time of sorrow. That first “silent night” was hardly silent for a poor teenage girl in a stable with only a worried carpenter to care for her. Birth is a time of pain and joy mingled together. Even the gifts that the Magi bring are funeral gifts—gold to purchase a grave, frankincense and myrrh to anoint a body.

Looking at the historical record of Jesus’ life, the first Christmas probably happened in the middle of August. Christian tradition, of course, has always celebrated his birth in December, during the darkest and coldest time of the year, at least in the northern hemisphere. Sometimes, tradition is truer than fact. So here’s some truth for you today, from the old Christmas carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

         In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
         earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
         snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
         in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

         Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
         cherubim and seraphim thronged throughout the air;
         but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
         worshipped the beloved with a simple kiss.

         What can I give him, poor as I am?
         If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
         if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
         yet what I can I give him:  give to him my heart.

In the bleak midwinter, God broke into human history, to redeem us, to make the world new, to break the power of sin and death. In Christ, all of our losses are redeemed. The manger only makes sense in the shadow of the cross. Christmas is a reminder that even now Jesus is making all things new. Tidings of comfort and joy, indeed.
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