The waiting is finally over and another Christmas morning has come, as it does every year, just as the daylight hours once again begin to lengthen. For many homes, this past month has been a season of planning, preparation and anticipation for the joyfully familiar celebrations of this special day.
Even in our contemporary world, where instantaneous gratification has come to feel like a right, many still appreciate that the wonder and magic of Christmas Day happens precisely because of the decision to delay gratification. We trust that everyone left the gifts wrapped until the past few hours (even if they were occasionally shaken throughout the month). In a very concrete way, Christmas well-kept reminds us of the virtues of planning, preparing and then patiently waiting.
For others, however, this day dawned without the joy heralded in the carols of the season. The reasons are as different as the people so affected; it might be illness, unemployment, depression, addiction, separation or loneliness. Even if there has been an effort to plan for and keep Christmas in some formal sense, it may have felt like going through the motions, but without the hoped for emotional payoff.
The fact of a calendared holiday, even one as special as Christmas, can't solve complex and difficult problems that will require patient effort to surmount. Nonetheless, we would suggest that the answer to the deepest yearnings of the heart is found deep within the story of Christmas.
Perhaps the repetition or the sometimes-stylized presentation of the story has softened its poignancy, but we would invite all who may have found today less than fully satisfying because of painful misunderstandings, rejection, physical challenges or financial stress to spend a few quiet moments reconsidering the story of how Christ came into the world.
The participants in the story could not have been more humble. Joseph and Mary, a misunderstood Jewish couple living under the oppression of Roman rule and the tyranny of an insecure vassal king, were rejected at a time of extraordinary need.
Consider what it says about how and who God loves, that when he sent his only begotten son into the world, it was through the challenging labor pangs common to all mothers. If there were distinctions they were the added sense of rejection, desperation and debasement of a family forced to wander far from their homeland. The humble shepherds who were summoned by angels to the birth of a king, found the royal child where one would least expect him, laying in a feedbox.
For those who are "careful and troubled about many things," for those who suffer emotionally or physically, quietly consider that from his first breath in this life that Christ, the promised savior of mankind, experienced the grinding challenges of mortality. He freely chose to live among and love common, sick, broken, impoverished and oppressed people. Consequently, no one is too misunderstood, too rejected, too poor or too lame for his compassionate understanding. And, we would suggest, even two millennia since his mortal ministry his redemptive power can still be found where one would least expect it.