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By Rev. Thomas Hyde
First United Methodist Church 

Christmas

 


I love Christmas music. I just listed to Alvin and the Chipmunks singing of “Christmas Cheer.” Then I found the dog’s version of Jingle Bells. Amazing! They bring back memories of good times past.

Christmas is supposed to be a happy, joyous season. We read of the angel’s visit to the shepherds of long ago and the glorious song of peace. We dress up our children in old bathrobes and let them act out the Christmas Story. We turn on the TV and see Scrooge redeemed, and Jimmy Stewart discover again his “Wonderful Life.” It’s a happy joyous season!

But, what if you aren’t happy? If you’re out of work, you can’t give gifts to the people that you love. If someone you love has just died, you are filled with grief. The joy of other people just seems to be another reminder of sadness and loss.

Let’s look carefully at the story that the Gospel of Luke shares. Mary and Joseph make a difficult journey to Bethlehem. Mary gives birth in the dirt and loneliness of a stable. Her mother and the rest of her support system are back in Nazareth. It’s the shepherds who come from their fields to honor her child. The first Christmas was a cold and lonely night for Mary and Joseph and Jesus.

The Gospel of Matthew gives us another view of Christmas. It’s a story filled with fear and terror. The Magi – or wise men – follow a star and come to worship the new king. But in their quest to find Jesus, they alert the evil King Herod that there is a new rival for his throne. After they deliver their gifts to the child, and leave by the back way, Herod searches for the child. He doesn’t find Jesus, because Joseph has been warned by an angel to flee with his young, family and they make the difficult journey to Egypt, more than 400 miles across a desert. Herod in his rage, murders all the infant boys in Bethlehem. Matthew tells us of the weeping mothers.

The miracle is that in the midst of a painful tragic world, “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) Jesus became a human being and came into our world. He came not to the rich and happy, but to the poor shepherds, the crying mothers, the lost, and the lonely.

We celebrate Christmas in the darkest time of the year. It’s cold and snowy outside. Every day is just a little shorter than the one before. So I love these words of the Prophet Isaiah given to a people living in a dark time:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined. … For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2,6)

May the light Christ shine in your darkness.

Pastor Tom Hyde

Sidney First United Methodist Church

 

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