Bleak Midwinter

The first Christmas wasn’t cute.  The songs of Christmas can make is seem that way.  But, the way was hard for Mary and Joseph.  All of Israel lay in the grip of hopelessness.  Years of enemy occupation had dimmed their hopes for freedom and security. No prophetic voice had been heard for hundreds of years.  An evil pagan king ruled.  Even Jesus’ arrival was stark: the humble setting, the lack of accommodations, the poverty of it all.  The announcement to Mary came with its difficulties.  Her community would see scandal.  Her fiance would wonder, and then want to be done with her. When it came time for Jesus to be born, the couple would have to travel cross-country.  Most certainly they did not understand God’s reason for this. Of course, after Jesus’ birth he would be in danger. Herod could have no rivals, even an infant.  And what are we to do with all the babies killed in the vicinity of Bethlehem?  Can you hear Rachel weeping for her children and finding no comfort?  (I have heard mothers crying who have lost their babies.  Did God plan for this to be one of the sounds of Christmas?)

Why remember the rough edge of Christmas?  Because it is the truth.  God did no small thing entering time and space.  It was not easy for him to come to us. We need to see this to remember how costly grace is.  We receive it freely but it comes to us at great price.  Years ago here at Granada one of our staff people took the trunk of the Christmas tree out of the lobby after Christmas and with a chainsaw he lopped off the branches.  He cut the trunk into two pieces and then used one of the pieces as a cross-member to make a cross.  Our empty cross that Easter was made of the timber from the Christmas tree.  This is the message from the very beginning.  Jesus came to save. This is why Christmas is such good news.  We have serious national and personal problems.

Some of us are sick and long for healing.

Some of us are facing financial disaster.

Some of us are in the midst of broken relationships.

Some of us are alone.

Some of us are anxious and afraid.

Many people find it tough to see how a babe in a manger can make the difference.  How can he be the savior?  God entered into the world in “bleak midwinter,” in the hardship of human suffering to show us that he is determined to be with us.  He wasn’t afraid to take on our human condition.  He wasn’t threatened by what he found in people or in his community. He didn’t avoid the pain that we know too well.  He took it on himself.  He didn’t turn away from the great obstacles of life, death and rejection and loneliness.  He walked through them so that he might walk with us and give us life.  He went to the cross determined to redeem us. This is why we celebrate at Christmas.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on August 11, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    Appreciate you directing our attention to “the rough edge of Christmas.”


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