Re-making Christmas

Perhaps a little too much tradition blurs the reality

Like many others, no doubt, our church is getting ready for the Christmas pageant to be performed by all the kids in Sunday School. Last Sunday the decorations appeared – tinsel-covered Christmas trees and a large barn-like structure complete with the animal trough surrounded by a donkey, a lamb and a cow that looks suspiciously like a Jersey. As we took our seats my husband leaned toward me and whispered, “Good North American nativity scene.”

I chuckled. Yes, we have remade Christmas in our own image. There would not have been spruce trees anywhere near the birthplace of Christ. A fig tree would be a more accurate depiction, and perhaps an ox would have been more appropriate than the cow. Often we are relying more on tradition than accuracy as we prepare for Dec. 25th. Jesus was likely born in the spring, not the winter season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditions of Christmas: the tree and all its baubles and tinsel, the wreaths adorning the doors, the cards that stuff our mailboxes both real and virtual, the Santa hats that adorn the heads of sales people and shoppers alike.

And I was glad to see the display at our church, nonetheless. With the religious symbols of Christmas sadly absent from most of the festive displays our communities these days, I was thankful that here, at least in the church, we are still making an attempt at remembering the birth of the Messiah.

Perhaps it would do us all good to remake Christmas more accurately in our hearts, as we focus on the Scriptures that tell us what really happened that day over 2,000 years ago. Yes, there was a census, the reason Mary and Joseph had to travel to Nazareth, the city of David, which fulfilled one of the prophesies about Jesus (Luke 2:1). Scholars debate whether His birthplace was actually a stable or more likely the place in many homes where their animals were housed in bad weather. (Luke 2:12). And there were shepherds, the first to hear of the birth, (Luke 2:8), the first to spread the good news to as many as would listen. (Luke 2:15). There was an unusual star, one so bright it caught the attention of astronomers who made an arduous journey to find the one prophesied about long before. (Matthew 2:2-10). They did not arrive in time for the birth but they did supply Mary and Joseph with the means to care for themselves when they had to flee to Egypt to avoid Harrod’s death squads. (Matthew 2:13).

Some of the details have perhaps been remade into tradition, but there is one fact that scripture tells us is true. The Son of God, “The Word, became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14, NIV). He had come for a specific purpose, to reconcile mankind to God.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NKJ).

The Lamb

To Celebrate His Coming

I shivered and pulled my cloak tighter around me as I peered at the fire where my father and uncle and the other shepherds sat. I thought of trying to get closer but knew I’d only get a clout for my efforts so I remained where I was, cold and miserable with not even a dream to warm the night.

Father was still angry with me. I was thinking of relenting, letting him take back the lamb he’d given me. But it was a pure, unspotted lamb, so unlike all the others in the flock, that were marred in some way. This one was good enough to be taken to the market and sold for a good price. That’s why father wanted to take it back.

But it was my lamb. He’d promised it to me, for working with him for so long with little recompense. He’d been promising me a lamb of my own for some time and I kept reminding him of his promise until finally, he’d said, “Yes, yes, the next one born is yours.” I think he only said it to be rid of me and my pestering, but I was thrilled. I was there when the ewe gave birth and reminded my father again, of his promise, just in case he’d choose to forget. He nodded his head without examining the tiny thing.

Later I saw his eyes light up when he realized what a prize it was and he wasted no time telling me he wanted to sell it. But it had become precious to me and I refused to give it up, even though I knew the shekels would mean food in our bellies for some time to come. Father was furious but I still refused. I wanted my own flock one day and this spotless lamb would be a good start. I didn’t trust him to keep his word, so I kept the wee thing tethered to me, day and night. No, I would not give it up. It was mine. I tugged it closer for warmth and was just about to lay my head down to try and sleep when a strange light made me sit up.

A tall man stood there, his very clothes bursting with white light. I could not see his face clearly, for the brilliance of it. My father and uncle and the other shepherds were on their feet, clustered together, some of them starting to back away from the strange apparition.

Then it spoke and we all fall on our faces.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12, NIV)

When it vanished the whole sky blazed. Angels! My mouth dropped open at the sight, my ears rang with the sound as they glorified God and bestowed peace upon us, we dirty, ragged shepherds.

When they were gone my father and the others all agreed – and that was an unheard of thing – but they agreed there was only one thing to be done: find the child! I lifted my lamb onto my shoulders and followed them, stumbling in the darkness but eager to see the wonder of an infant Messiah.

I expected he would be in a palace of some kind and despaired of ever getting close enough to see him, even if my father did allow it, but when we found the place it was as humble a dwelling as any you could discover. The child’s father was a bit hesitant at first, when such a rag-tag group arrived, but when my father told him about the angels he waved us closer. I stuck my head between my father and my uncle, expecting to get a swat but my father moved aside, put his arm across my shoulders and, drawing me close, spoke quietly in my ear.

“Why we have been chosen, my son, I cannot fathom, but we must study this scene, commit every detail to memory so that we can tell everyone we meet. The Messiah has come!”

I clutched the spotless lamb to my breast and did as he said, noting the soft features of the young woman holding the child who was wrapped, as the angel had said, in bands of cloth. He looked so ordinary, cried so like any other child, but I knew, deep in my soul that he was no common infant.

The lamb bleated in my arms. I looked down at it and knew what I should do. Without hesitation I loosed the tether from my wrist and laid the lamb before him. The woman’s smile widened and she nodded. But when she glanced down at the animal again I noted the smile faded and a sadness lay in her eyes. I wondered at it then.

It would be many years before I would understand. My gift no doubt reminded her there would be pain and sorrow ahead.

For this child was, indeed, a pure and spotless lamb. The lamb of God who would be sacrificed to take away the sins of the world.

Wishing I Could Be Jesus

Image by coastventures from Pixabay

I recently attended a funeral for a young man who died too soon, leaving a wife and three young girls. The sadness overwhelms at times and it makes me wish I could be Jesus, just for a few minutes, just long enough to say, as He did, “arise.”

But then, I realize that He doesn’t need me to do His work for Him. He has already done it. He has already said that wondrous, mysterious word and brought that young man into His kingdom, given him time to have a productive, full life here on this earth, and then brought Him home, to the place where he has wanted to be, as a believer in Christ.

Often, especially during these difficult days when we constantly hear about a worsening pandemic, the world seems off kilter and full of so much pain and suffering it overwhelms us. And we want to be Jesus. We want to snap our fingers and make it all better. But He is and has already been at work. He has a plan for this earth, for each one of us, a plan that goes far beyond what we could ever imagine.

God told the Hebrew people exactly that when they were in circumstances that were full of pain and suffering – their captivity in Babylon. Living as slaves, they no doubt often cried out to God to bring them relief from all the suffering and pain they experienced and saw around them.

This was His answer – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

At this time of year some of us are in circumstances that are made even more difficult by all the joy and/or jollity around us. Our lives have been turned upside down. And sadness overwhelms.

Here are a few things we can do when that happens:

Look up. When we see all those decorated Christmas trees, look up. Look for the star or the angel on the top. And know Jesus is with you.

Look around. There are others who are struggling. Is there something you can do for them that will lighten their hearts, and yours?

Look ahead. Jesus has promised a bright future and given us a way to know we are secure in his hand.

Yes, there are times I wish I could be Jesus. But then I remember – He is the Messiah, the Living God, our hope and our comfort. We don’t need anyone or anything else.

****

A similar version of this devotional in included in Marcia’s book, Love in the Room, a collection of devotionals just for Christmas. It can be ordered from Amazon or by emailing the author – vinemarc@telus.net

Gifts of Good Words: Christmas Books !

Christmas is for reading right? And don’t we all love to get a little book stuffed into our stocking? That’s why I created these two little books:

Christmas, a collection of short stories that will take you from the far reaches of the galaxy to the edge of the Arctic Circle and the streets of the inner city. The miracle of Christmas is transported from one unusual setting to another and into your heart as you read.

And …

Love in the Room, a collection of devotionals. Love is always in the room with us at Christmas time. These short but timely reflections will stir your heart with a new, clear perspective on the perfect Saviour who came as a babe so long ago. From the child-like delight of a Christmas flash mob to avoiding “too much” Christmas, award-winning author and speaker, Marcia Lee Laycock gives fresh insight into our most beloved season.

Both books can be purchased directly
from me for $15.00 including postage, by emailing vinemarc@telus.net

or from Amazon –

Love in the Room ; Christmas

What readers have said:

About Christmas:

“If you’re looking for a collection of stories to inspire and understand the Christmas spirit, look no further. The author skillfully presents characters in a wide range of circumstances, so that you feel you’re right there with them. You feel their anxiety, their pain and their joyful answer to a burning question. If there’s anything I might have wanted, it would be more of her stories.”

Each story is a delightful read. The characters are believable and the story lines engaging. A refreshing read that does “stir the Christmas spirit.”

About Love in the Room:

“I love Marcia’s winsome style. Her carefully woven stories are proof that great truth is taught in simple ways.”

“The spirit of Christmas is indeed alive in these devotionals. Savour each one in the days leading up to the 25th. Or give it as a gift to be enjoyed in the days after and at any time of the year.”

Virtual Book Fair Blog Hop Schedule – Please follow along for the next 14 days and check out all of these great selections.

Wednesday November 4—Ruth L. Snyder https://ruthlsnyder.com/2020/11/04/gifts-of-good-words-blog-hop/

Thursday November 5—Eunice Matchett https://albertastoryteller.com/

Friday November 6—Grace Wulff https://gracewulff.com/

Saturday November 7—Tandy Balson https://www.timewithtandy.com/

Sunday November 8—LD Stauth https://www.ldstauth-author.com/

Monday November 9—Sally Meadows https://sallymeadows.com/

Tuesday November 10—Janet Sketchley https://janetsketchley.ca/

Thursday November 12—Marcia Laycock https://marcialeelaycock.com/

Friday November 13—Ruth Meyer (on Facebook)

Saturday November 14—Laurie Haughton http://lensofmotherhood.blogspot.com/

Sunday November 15—Carolyn Wilker https://www.carolynwilker.ca/

Monday November 16—Janis Cox https://www.janiscox.com/

Tuesday November 17—Lynn Collier https://lynnecollier.com

Wednesday November 18—Barrie Doyle https://barriedoyle.com/