8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 ”Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:8-14
There is something that feels awkward about celebrating Christmas this year in light of the tragedy that took the lives of twenty school children and eight adults in Connecticut earlier this month. I read where some of the residents of Newtown took down their Christmas decorations following the tragedy or decided not to put them up. Nevertheless, it seems that not even intense, complicated grief can prevent Christmas from coming. The Newton Post Office has been inundated with cards, letters, and gifts for the residents of the small community. In addition, thousands of toys have come to the town for all the children to know that the world is not a frightening evil place. It seems that Christmas is bursting through the grief of Newtown.
Back on December 26, 1942, The Saturday Evening Post cover featured a Norman Rockwell Christmas painting of a man reading the desperately depressing news of World War II. Bursting through the paper was a red-mittened Santa Claus with the simple message, “Merry Christmas.” That’s the way Christmas is breaking in again this year – not only in Newtown, but in your town and my town too. Aching anxiety over senseless killings, the financial cliff, and weird weather patterns can rob our lives of joy and peace. But greater than any crazed killer, greater than political maneuvering, greater even than the forces of nature is God’s great gift of Christ Jesus.
A baby’s cry broke through the silence of the night when Jesus was born, and angels burst on the scene to sing God’s glory to a group of unsuspecting shepherds. So too God’s grace breaks through our guilt, God’s truth breaks open our error, God’s love breaks into our loneliness, God’s light breaks into our darkness. Celebrating Christmas may seem a bit awkward with heavy hearts for any number of reasons, but don’t be surprised if Christmas invades your life. Christ has a way of showing up in unexpected places, undeserving lives, and unsuspecting hearts. Let us rejoice with the angels and give glory to God in the highest.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston