On the Occasion of the 2012th World Celebration of the Birthday of Jesus Christ

It turns out that the world didn’t end after all on Friday, December 21st. But it did stand still for a moment or two as we recalled the 27 victims from the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. I heard on the news that some of the residents were taking down Christmas decorations because they felt guilty celebrating under the circumstances. I can sympathize; these days the world seems darker than it did in the past. The peace and joy of Christmas seems a distant memory when even our schools are no longer safe. And the New Year starts under the cloud of the looming “fiscal cliff”. Many Americans will go into debt to try and make Christmas just a little bit brighter, only to face the consequences for much of next year. Under these circumstances we might find it hard to sing, “Have a holly, jolly Christmas, it’s the best time of the year….

Perhaps we envy the stable scene with the warmth and light of Jesus surrounded by admiring shepherds and placid beasts. But take another look at the first Christmas, and it’s not so very different from today. A young couple, unexpectedly pregnant with a child they probably cannot afford, suddenly finds themselves out on the road and homeless because of a new government tax. It’s winter, too, and dark and cold, and they have to settle for a dirty barn to get a little shelter from the wind when the child is born. Then the local king actually massacres children – he sends his solders to kill all the young children while trying to track down the innocent baby. The workman and his wife and young son become refugees in a foreign land.

The first Christmas is far from idyllic. And yet, despite the darkness around them, the young couple walked in the light. Despite the restlessness around them, they experienced peace. Despite the struggles of the day, they lived lives of joy. How did they manage this? The peace and joy and light come from Jesus. Those who accept Him receive these gifts. As the shepherds, the wise men, Joseph and Mary gaze into the face of the Baby Jesus they find peace and joy. He is our Peace. Those who accept Him receive these gifts. This Christmas, accept Christ. Welcome Him into your home. Welcome Him into your heart. Welcome Him into whatever situation steals your peace, robs your joy. The first Christmas reminds us that no place it too dark for Christ, not even a bloody school. While Christmas carols may be hard to sing in trying times, the Christmas hymns have more meaning than ever:

Joy to the World! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing…

May the peace and joy of Christ be yours the whole New Year!