It is a season when many feel the exuberance of the hunt. Finding that perfect gift or bargain becomes an end in itself. For others it is a time of fear and trepidation: the crowds, the expectations and the like weighing on them. Others still, remember a baby in a manger, three kings, a little lamb, and of course a little donkey.
The coming of the Christ-child becomes many things to many people, but its underlying message of Emmanuel is often lost. But the need of “God with us,” it is as important today as it was two thousand years ago.
Consumerism and the “hunt” underlies an emptiness which we feel needs filling. Fears and apprehensions – whether about the season, or racism, or Covid, or identity, etc. – still need the calming hand of God. It is also more than the trappings of a manger scene. That baby, whether accompanied by a lamb, little donkey, or panda bear (yes, I have seen one in a nativity play) was the ultimate gift of God’s own presence to a troubled human-kind. He came to redeem and comfort, to gift, and to be gifted.
Oh, come Emmanuel! Come and be the fulfilment of our sense of “missing something.” Come into our fears and anxieties and gently wipe them away. Come into our consciences and not just our decorations. Come Lord, into our lives.
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