Christmas memories that are meant to last

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, December 25, 2018

What is your most meaningful Christmas memory? If you had opportunity to share, what would you recall? Would it be your family decorating the Christmas tree together or a spouse or parent cooking a favorite Christmas dish, such as sweet potato biscuits? Would it be s special kiss under the mistletoe  or even struggling to put a toy together? Would it be attending a midnight Christmas Eve worship service or perhaps experiencing an illness?

Not long ago, I asked this question of a small prayer group. After a few of us had shared, one friend touched us all with her most meaningful memory of Christmas. This friend shared that 40 years ago she was diagnosed with cancer. She spent 16 December days in the hospital. As she was being taken home in the ambulance, she heard people talking about Christmas. At that time, she said that she had two infant children and wondered if she would ever spend another another Christmas with them. Then she commented, “This was 40 years ago, and I am especially grateful for Christmas, for God, for my family and the opportunity to share Christmas.”

Christmas memories — for the most part — are powerful and feed our souls. They recall to us our heritage and those we love. They enhance our. celebrations. In a real sense, they enable us to understand who we are and whose we are.

But Christmas reminds us of something else even greater than all these memories. It reminds us of the good news in the midst of all the bad.

Hear again that blessed song of the angel in the world as it was, not a make-believe world but the world as it was, a world filled with sadness and prejudice and despair and hopelessness.

Then suddenly an angel from the very presence of God came to some shepherds and said, “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).”

The good news is that we don’t have to be afraid. What a needed word to hear.

No doubt the announcement was sudden, shaking and surprising. The shepherds were frightened, jolted to their feet and deeply concerned that their sheep had all run off in fear and would be lost. Strangely, however, the dark was now bright as day and they needed to hear this comforting word — “Don’t be afraid.”

Someone expressed it beautifully, “Fear knocked at the door, faith answered, and there was no one there.”

“There we all are,”stated the professor, “gathered around the manger scene on Christmas Eve, putting the animals and the wise men and the shepherds around the baby who is a small center of sanity in a large and crazy world.”

Absolutely beautiful-a small center of sanity in a large and crazy (fearful) world.

Jesus Christ was and is God’s loving answer to this world’s gloom. Our fears grow out of our forgetfulness of Him.

Next, the good news is that no one is left out. I have always been grateful that God’s first announcement came to the shepherds in the midst of the expectation and humdrum of everyday life. The shepherds were the common people, and they were engaged in life’s ordinary task. Of course, they represent you and me.

  Yet the very ordinariness of that first Christmas speaks volumes to us. Christmas came to a little out of the way place called Bethlehem so we might know that no place is unknown to God. Christmas came to a teenage girl named Mary so that we might be convinced that all life is dear to him. And Christmas came to these shepherds out in the fields so that we might know that God comes to us in the routine of our everyday lives and that no one is left out.

Finally, the good news is that a savior is born. German theologian, Rudolph Bultmann, stated, “Revelation is God in Christ putting humankind in a new situation.” And I might add, “a salvation situation.”

A minister friend said he that he visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and he couldn’t believe what he saw. He said it was total chaos — loud music, gaudy signs, relentless commercialism, shouting merchants and poor children begging for a dollar.

My friend said he wanted to scream, “Wait a minute. This is Bethlehem, not Bourbon Street. This is Bethlehem, not Times Square.” It was indeed Bethlehem, but it seemed like Bedlam.

But then, as this friend put it, something happened to change everything. A little girl who looked to be 6 or 7-years-old was standing in the chapel with her mother. Her mother was explaining that this was the place where Jesus was born on that first Christmas. Momentarily, in the midst of all the confusion, that little girl did a beautiful thing. She dropped to her knees, bowed her head and said, “Thank you God, for sending Jesus. Amen.”

And that minister said that as he heard the  prayer of that little girl, suddenly, it was Christmas in his heart.