The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Rev. Thomas Hyde
First United Methodist, Sidney 

A Christmas story


Everyone loves a good story, and Christmas has the best ones. What's your favorite Christmas movie? Is it A Wonderful Life, as George finds out that his life has meaning? Or is it Home Alone as Kevin defends his home and learns the value of family? Or perhaps it's The Christmas Story with the stern warning to Ralphie his wished for BB gun will "shoot your eye out!" I like the classic Christmas Carol, where Scrooge, "... a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!" is converted by Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and finds love at the end.

Of course, we turn to the Bible to find the simple story of the birth of Jesus. I find it helpful to look at each of the Gospel accounts separately, and perhaps get to the real meaning of Christmas. Matthew, Luke and John each view Christmas from a different angle, and guides us as we search for Christmas.

Matthew's Christmas story is set in the reign of evil King Herod, who will murder anyone who poses a threat to his power. Strange astrologers from a distance land come to find the new king, and their questions pose a threat to the very life of the newborn. They bring extravagant gifts, and then leave before the murdering troops arrive. Mary and Joseph flee the country just in time to save their child, although the children left in Bethlehem are murdered. God's Messiah and king is born in a land of tragedy and sorrow, and of Jesus message to the entire world. If you are mired in depression and grief, listen to this story of joy being born in the midst of despair.

Luke tells a wonderful story Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem on the order of an emperor far away, who displaced common folks in order to collect taxes more effectively. As Joseph returned home, he found to home there, and had to shelter his pregnant wife in the place where the animals slept. Her newborn baby, wrapped in a simple cloth was laid in an animal feeding trough. Jesus wasn't born in a sterile hospital, but in the midst of the debris of life. His first visitors were the poor shepherds, who dared to believe the word of an angel, and left their flocks to search for him. If you are looking for a place to belong, let Jesus be born in the debris of your life.

My favorite story of Jesus's arrival in the world comes from the book of John. John doesn't tell a story, he sings a song. It starts with the chaos of creation and the word of God. There is a light shining in the darkness. God is abstract and far away and hard to understand. The relationship seems cold and distant. "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." [John 1:14 NRSV] God moved into our neighborhood. He's nearby. He understand us better than we understand ourselves.

In joy or despair, community of loneliness, darkness or light, may you have a blessed Christmas!


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