So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:16-20
I woke up this morning and checked Facebook to find that today is Christmas Eve. Instead of leaping out of bed, full of Christmas Spirit, and shouting, “Merry Christmas,” I thought, “Oh #$@%@^, I haven’t been to the grocery store yet.” I’ve talked to a lot of people who complain about not having the Christmas Spirit this year. In all of my adult life, I never heard so many people saying “Humbug” to Christmas. They have a variety of reasons, the heat (it is still in the 80s here, muggy and oppressive-not as bad as a summer day, but almost as miserable), the election (January 20 ushers in the end of the world, you know), refugee crisis, terrorism, illness, anything bad (just watch the news). There are a lot of reasons, but I was thinking after I came home from the grocery store that was so packed I had to park my car beyond the yellow stop carts line and ask a bag boy to stand with my cart while I moved my car to the emergency lane to load it, that this isn’t really the worse Christmas in history. Sure there have been others where wars dominated the headlines, bombs dropped over houses filled with children waiting for Santa Claus, epidemics raged indiscriminately and storms threatened travel routes, but the worst Christmas has to have been the first Christmas. Think about it. The Jews suffered under the rule of the Romans, not the first cruel legion to invade their land, but perhaps the worst. Crosses lined roads promised an excruciating death for anyone who got out of line. Those in charge delighted in finding new methods of torture. Religion was dominated by hypocrites who put money and prestige over a relationship with God. The poor died outside their homes that had been seized by armies, and the wealthy, and crops were taxed so heavily that only a small percentage actually reached a farmer’s table. They waited for thousands of years for the Messiah to come. People hadn’t just lost hope; hope didn’t even exist. The last straw was the order to return to their birthplace, not only be counted, but to be taxed. People all over the country travelling, in a hurry, struggling to make it home before the deadline. Joseph and Mary weren’t the only ones on the run that day. Nor were they alone in being afraid and feeling helpless. Yet, that night, hope arrived. Not in the form that everyone expected mind you. Instead of a King armed with a sword and wearing a crown, the shepherds were directed to a babe lying in a manger. The Wise Men laid their gifts before the child of two peasants, a carpenter and an unwed mother. Though they couldn’t see it clearly, the Messiah, and hope, finally arrived. So, if it is any comfort, this is not the worst Christmas ever. This is the best Christmas ever. At least, if you open your eyes to the Savior.