As I write this, it is still a bit early in the morning. The sun is only just beginning to wake up. I am sitting in what my wife and I call “the library” of our home. Across from me, in the center of the cabinetry that hold some of our many books, is a painting of a country church that sits alongside a winding river and is surrounded by trees. Below the painting is a nativity scene that we bought years ago when we were in the Holy Land, and all the figurines are carefully arranged.
In many respects it is a kind of Christmas card scene right now. Beside me is a Christmas tree filled with lights and ornaments. There is a fire in the fireplace. A floral centerpiece is on the coffee table in front of me and garland on the mantle. Our dog, a black lab, is sitting near my feet and the house is filled with silence. I’m thinking I should take a picture and send it to Hallmark.
However, no one is more keenly aware than I that life is not always this serene, nor is Christmas quite so orderly. In a few minutes, our dog will be barking at people walking up and down the street and I will be off to a day full of activity. There will be programs at the Church to attend, letters to be written, sermon preparation that will need to be done, pastoral calls to make and on a personal level some Christmas shopping that needs to get done. I have learned to expect that most days unexpected challenges will arise and the best laid plans may sometimes come undone. And all these things are the easy ones.
I know that for many this season of the year is challenging in other, much deeper ways. For some, there is an empty chair in the house that will not be filled; bills that leave families wondering how they will be paid; a conflict within the family that threatens to tear apart the fabric of their relationships with one another.
And yet, as I look across at the creche on our shelf, I find comfort. I am reminded that while our nativity scene seems so serene, the very first Christmas was not nearly that orderly. In that creche there was not a Christmas tree, but rather animals that smelled. There was not a floral arrangement on the coffee table nor garland on the mantle. Instead, there was waste on the floor, hay that filled the manger, and a flurry of activity as the child was about to be born. There was no fire in the fireplace, but more likely a coldness in the air that left the body stinging. It was into this less than picture perfect setting that God chose to make His entrance.
The Gospel of John tells us, “…the Word became flesh and lived among us….” (John 1:14). That means that no matter where you are or what life is like for you at this… or any other given moment… you are not alone. The God of the universe has chosen to be with you and walk alongside of you. And, of course, it is that, above all else, that makes Christmas, Christmas!
Rev. Dan Brown