Today is the second Sunday after Christmas Day. It has been barely more than a week since we were celebrating, Christmas, giving and receiving gifts, family gatherings and eating a huge Christmas dinner. What is left of the Christmas celebration? A trash bag full of used wrapping paper and empty boxes. Some persons have taken down and stored away the Christmas tree and all the decorations. Even the repetitive Christmas Carols have ceased from being played on the radio.|
Christmas is over for many people and their lives have returned to normal. It is back to work for the adults and back to school for the children. Is Christmas really over? Is it just a time for parties, giving gifts to friends and family, and a brief period of "Peace on earth, good will toward men?" Surely there is more to it than that.
The celebration of Christmas for us as Anglicans is not a day but a season of twelve (12) days. If we could go back nearly 2,000 years to that very first Chirstmas, we would hear a variety of sounds - sounds of a busy inn, of animals feeding in a stable, of angels singing on high, of excited shepherds coming to see the baby in the manger, and I am sure, Mary's voice in a soft lullaby. But those happy and excited sounds are soon replaced by the harsh shouts of soldiers, the cries of children and the wailing of anguished mothers.
Today's Gospel (click the word to get the text for the gospel) reveals an insecure old king who felt his rule threatened when he heard that another king had been born. And when he could not find that child, he issued a decree that all the little boys in Bethlehem, 2 years old and younger, were to be executed.
In the midst of the bells ringing, choirs singing and music filling the air (that reminds us of Christmas), the Gospel (click the word to get the text for the gospel) reminds us that there are other sounds - sounds of anguish and grief: sounds of the shouts of soldiers, the cries of children, and the wailing of mothers. These are all a part of the Christmas sounds, too. They are a part of what God is trying to communicate to us during this wonderful season of the year.
It would be virtually impossible for us to imagine what it was like to be a parent in Bethlehem the night of that slaughter. To have soldiers burst into your home, searching through every room until they find your son, carrying him outside to take his life from him. Yet that is a part of the Christmas story, too.
Anguish is still very much a part of the Christmas scene even today. There are many who are suffering, many who are lonely and many who are grieving. And for that reason they find little joy in the Christmas celebration. But Christmas comes to a suffering world. And it tells us that God does not guarantee to take away our suffering, only to bear it with us. There is uncertainty in our world, but God came to see us through it, to lead us through the uncertainty.
Think of the uncertainty in the lives of Mary and Joseph as they packed up their meager belongings to leave Bethlehem and head for Egypt. There was death on that night so long ago in Bethlehem when the cries of children pierced the night air - innocent children, victims of selfishness. They died that night. But there was one child who was saved, one child who was carried off into Egypt.
Yet the one child who was saved would one day become a victim himself, but His death would be different than any other. He would die on a cross, not for His own sins, but for the sins of others. Because Jesus Christ became the offering, the sacrifice for all our sins, death was defeated, overcome by God. There is death in our world, but there is a God who has overcome it.
Life is uncertain. We do not know what the year 2010 will bring, but Mary and Joseph had one great advantage. They knew that God was leading the way for them and He would take care of them. As Christians, we have the advantage of knowing that while we do not know what tomorrow holds, we do know Him who holds our tomorrows in His hands, and like He did for Mary and Joseph, He wants us to let Him lead the way.
There is much uncertainty in our world today, but there is a God who leads us through that uncertainty, and that is also the message of Christmas.
Do you hear what I hear?
from Father Michael Gittens