The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn has just passed after an absence of hundreds of years. Some call this the Christmas Star or the Bethlehem Star. In this year of fires, floods, racial and social unrest, and a world-wide pandemic it is perhaps a time to take stock and to reflect on the story not of this planetary alignment, but of the star of the Gospel account. It was a harbinger of the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. It marked a transition in our relationship with the divine. The age of the Fall of Adam was coming to an end, and a promised saviour, the Messiah had come.
That did not mean that wars and rumours of wars, or fires, floods, and misfortune were coming to an end – 2020 surely shows us that. What it does say is there is a hope that is greater than those trials that is opened to us.
As I was reflecting on this I picked three YouTube videos to share which capture some of my thoughts. The first speaks of the coming of Emmanuel. The other two of the stresses and strains that Mary, the mother of Jesus may have faced in her obedience to God’s call. That obedience in the face of uncertainty and surely fears is a telling example for us all.
I wish all of you a happy Christmas, and pray that what ever the future holds for us, that we might cling to the Emmanuel – God with us.
Manger born –
To the shepherds proclaim.
In David’s town, as foretold –
Emmanuel to Earth, You came.
Born King of kings and the Lord of Lords
Yet in the humble stable’s hay you were lain.
“Christmassy Music” is Jim Adams’ challenge this week, with emphasis on the terms Christmas, Holiday, and Snowman. Here is a traditional offering, the Wexford Carol. It is claimed by some to be 12th Century, and while this is debatable, it is assuredly 18th or 19th Century.
Variation of Lyrics:
[Good people all, this Christmas time
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending His beloved Son
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day]
In Bethlehem upon that morn’
There was a blessed Messiah born
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
“Arise and go”, the angels said
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find this happy morn’
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born”
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went that Babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Savior Christ behold
Within a manger He was laid
And by his side the Virgin maid
As long foretold upon that morn’
There was a blessed Messiah born
It is midwinter. The days are short. It is wet and cold. Many are rushed about by preparations for the holidays. Others in what is meant to be a festive season of tidings of good news and joy find being away from friends and family a cause of gloom. Others are apprehensive of the reunions with ones that they have grown apart from. It is in short, a “bleak mid-winter” for many.
A very dear sister in Christ wrote to me today and confided in me her depression at this season. Before continuing, I would like to say that I am not medically trained, nor do I understand all the ins and outs of biochemical responses to situations. Even my psychological training was limited to family counselling and low level talking therapies. I can add to that that I am a classic type B personality, and elation and depression are low key in my own life.
That all said, even with this Christmas-tide upon us, and it being the first since Dianne’s passing, I still have no depression. Yes, the weather and season are dark and drizzly. Yes, I spend a lot of time physically alone. But I still have faith in not ever being totally alone. Jesus said, “I will be with you always,” and I find comfort in that, and my ad hoc conversations with Him are frequent. I also trust in His promise that Dianne and I are not permanently separated, but we will be reunited in the place Jesus has gone ahead to prepare.
Christina Rossetti’s poem In the Bleak Midwinter reminds us though of the promise of the season. Despite all of the gloom and social stresses, it is the arrival of Emmanuel which we should cling to. He came that all concerns could be lifted from us. He has come to bring us peace.
Some might take exception to such views. Marx is credited with saying religion, and by implication faith, is the opiate of the masses. If that is the case, the all I have to say is bring on the spiritual pharmaceuticals! I want “the peace that exceeds all understanding,” and I wish you find it as well.
Loud Christmas carols filling air
Loud decorations everywhere
Loud requests made on Santa’s knee
Loud are our childhood memories
On this most holy silent night
I found the stream of consciousness prompt to write about “loud,” fascination. In following the guidelines and with only the prompt word “loud” and the idea of Christmas the poem above began to form. Without any intention of doing so, the first nine lines fell into a 1-3-8-1-3-8 . . . syllable pattern. The final line (also 8 syllables) came naturally, but the 10th line did, I admit require one edit to bring it to 3 syllables.
As it was in the American Civil War, and many other conflicts as well, the First World War began with the expectations of “it will all be over by Christmas.” But as the winter of 1914 closed in, the European conflict had entered stalemate with both alliances bogged down into trench warfare.
In the midst of this there was a moment of hope with the unofficial “Christmas Truce” of 1914. This event has become part of the popular perception of the war, and it has featured in popular culture in such films as the 2005 Joyeux Noel.
I am not a great fan of commercialised Christmas, but one of the most outstanding television advertisements I have ever seen is the 2014 Sainsbury’s Supermarket ad. I have posted it below, and believe it really does capture a bit of the spirit of Christmas – Peace on Earth, and good will to me.
Humble men flocks keeping
Guarding sheep when others are sleeping
The stillness broken by glorious sight
Angelic hosts fill up the night
And why to these humble go?
A birth to announce so the world could know
One greater than kings had been born
But he lay in a manger – wrapped in cloths torn
This little child – then fast asleep
Two millennia on – the humble still He seeks