What do you want most for Christmas? I don’t mean a tangible thing you can hold in your hands. I mean, what do you really want deep down inside?
Freedom from bondage?
We’re drawing near to the end of 2021. This was supposed to be the good year; the year after the terrible 2020. It wasn’t the good year. It was worse in many ways. COVID is still with us and still rampaging across the world with new variants. Political unrest continues throughout the world. No peace at home. Racial tensions continue. Our leaders continue to show just how frail and human we really are. There are no superheroes in the real world to save us from the Thanos’s of the universe.
So why is it that Christmas seems to bring so much hope? What is it about Christmas that almost redeems the rest of this year?
We can try our best to focus on magical beings like Santa and his reindeers. We can romanticize our relationships on the Hallmark channel. We can lift our glasses filled with the beverages of forgetfulness and retreat for a moment from reality. We can drown ourselves in consumerism and the latest physical thing. We can even try our best to be a part of some kind of family. But there is something transcendent and metaphysical about this season.
In ancient Europe, the evergreen tree was viewed as a source of this magical feeling of life, persistence, hope. During the harsh winters, the evergreen tree branches with their green leaves stood out against the cold, harsh white wash of winter. Bringing them into the house brought a sense of hope that spring would come and this cold, deadly embrace of icy winter would one day come to an end. And, hopefully the present day struggles would also come to an end.
The evergreen tree stood for a stubbornness against the reality of cold, ending death. It was no wonder that the tradition of the evergreen wreath and branches would one day become the Christmas tree. A tree. A thing of wood and leaves and sap whose roots reached deep into the earth for sustenance and whose leaves and limbs were designed to be narrow and hard to withstand the frozen grip of winter. It wasn’t long until that tree became a reminder of another “tree” on which a very famous man was crucified and the legacy of his life to all mankind.Read the rest of this entry
This is the second chapter of my book, “Our Darkness, His Light: Ordinary People in the Extraordinary Story of Christ.” Josiah is a character who “bookends” the story that starts at the manger and ends at the empty tomb.
In my fictional account of the nativity, Josiah is the owner of the manger where Jesus was born. He now lives with his own son in Bethlehem and Joseph and Mary have moved into a house down the street.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)
“Where are you going?” Rachel asked.
I shrugged into my outer cloak and grabbed the walking stick. “I promised Joseph I would help him finish something in his workshop.” I couldn’t tell her it was a chair I was making especially for her.
My son, Joseph, burbled and cooed in his mother’s arms. “But, it’s after sunset.”
“Yes, and much cooler. Joseph’s workshop on his roof will be much more tolerable now.” I kissed my son’s forehead. His dark, unruly hair smelled of scented oil. “You know, it’s been two years.” I tousled Joseph’s hair and he grabbed my finger with his strong grip.
“Since the birth of Yeshua. Yes, I remember, Josiah. Also, that was the night we had our, uh, disagreement.”
I reached past Joseph and patted Rachel’s stomach. “And, this child will be our daughter, Rachel. Yahweh has told me as much.”
Rachel’s smile was brighter than the star I had seen that night. “Well, I will be putting our Joseph down for the night so be careful on your journey to Joseph’s house.” She leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek.
I stepped out of our house into the cool night air. The sky was clear and filled with blazing stars. One star in particular seemed to lie low on the horizon. For two years now, the star had filled the night sky visible even with a full moon! Now, it seemed brighter and closer than ever! As I turned toward Joseph’s house, I noticed the star seemed to hover over the street where he lived! How was this possible? Surely just an illusion.Read the rest of this entry