Merry Christmas! Yes, I am a bit early but it is my last opportunity this year to do that, so I hope it is a great holiday season for you.
Right now a lot of people are no doubt ramping up for the big day. Lists to make, cards to send (I am dating myself here), gifts to purchase, parties to plan and attend, decorating the tree, the house, the yard, not to mention pictures with pets; yes it can be exhausting. The self imposed hectic schedule may have something to do with why some normally happy and well-adjusted people begin to sense a creeping feeling of “humbug.”
In a culture where concern about buying the “perfect gift” may require professional counseling, even seasonal music may cause overwhelming stress. For example “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I am confident Mr. Williams — I can’t call him Andy because we have never been introduced — did not mean for his catchy lyrics to cause seasonal insecurity, but look at the song. The expectations are huge. What if everyone isn’t telling you to be of good cheer or you have no place to roast marshmallows, and mistitoeing might be a chargeable offense during the pandemic. The hap-happiest season of all may well be an unattainable goal, then what? Then I suggest we put aside the mostly temporary concerns to consider the source of the celebration.
The story reaches all the way back to Genesis so I will need to be brief. God created humankind for relationship, but humankind chose disobedience which severed that relationship. Genesis chapter three describes the judgment and the solution: a man born of a women would restore what was broken.
Fast-forward to the time of the prophet Isaiah when God’s people had divided themselves into two nations and things were not going well. God speaking through the prophet added specifics to the reconciliation that was coming. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).
Later the prophet Micah would add geographical specifics to the promise: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2 NIV).
It should not be lost on us that the name of the ancient village Bethlehem literally translated is “house of bread,” the birth place of the one who said of himself “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48 NIV).
Paul spoke to the fulfillment of the promise when he wrote to the church in Galatia: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV). Relationship is restored by the once-and-for-all perfect sacrifice of the God-man Jesus.
When we can put aside all of the hype and fluff, the celebration of the birth of Christ really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.