A Quiet Christmas

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 12

Hobby Lobby and Walmart have offered their contributions to Christmas since August this year with Santas and plastic mistletoe competing for shelf space with pumpkins, candy corn, and rifled school supplies. We have bought presents, mailed packages, made playlists, and picked out the cutest outfit for the kids (although this year, it is likely to be pajamas. . .).  Christmas, even in the midst of a pandemic is busy.  

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I have celebrated one quiet Christmas without all the trappings–just one. Christmas of 1992–I was a student for the year in Israel and stayed in Jerusalem for the break. I was staying with a family that month, but on Christmas Day, I was alone. The family had a baby born on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, and they were all at the hospital together huddled around the infant.

So, I walked the streets of Jerusalem to check out the Christmas scene–only to find there was none. A working string of lights lit one side of the YMCA tower and a ratty tinsel Santa hung in a shop in the Old City. That was it. No music, no presents, no parties, and no endless loop of “Baby, it’s cold outside.”

The stores were all open, people were going about their days as if nothing had happened. None of them were rushing home to open presents, or to attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah, or put together a music playlist to listen to over hot chocolate. To them, the Baby Jesus born six miles south in Bethlehem two millennia before was as unremarkable as Baby Kira born there the previous night.

And yet, “Great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!”  The first Christmas was pretty quiet, too.

At least for most people.  Outside Bethlehem in the craggy Judean Wilderness was a group of rugged men and their sheep.  Maybe they lay under the stars thinking that King David had once been a humble shepherd on those same hills.  Maybe they were contemplating the next Passover when this year’s lambs would be sacrificed for the families who flocked to Jerusalem.

And then, shattering the quiet, there was the angel:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2.10-12

“Fear not!” Fear not? How was the possible? Good News?  Joy for all people?  The Messiah? Could it be?

And then, the choir of angels. Lots of them, doing what angels were created to do–magnify God. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among those with whom He is well pleased.”

The King had come and His messengers sang the news.  And the Shepherds?  They ran to confirm the word of the angel. They too became emissaries of the newborn King.

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  Luke 2.17

They.  Made.  Known.  I’ll bet they did!  For the rest of their lives.  How could you be quiet about that?!

This year, perhaps, may be quieter that we are used to.  The numbers may be smaller, we may be coughing, and the Zoom calls may be jammed, but may we revel in that glorious Christmas!   And, please God, may we anticipate with hope the glory that is to come for those who follow the King born on that quiet night in Bethlehem!

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