“Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
– Phillips Brooks
Merry Christmas, one and all! We have journeyed through the season of Advent, a time of preparation, anticipation, and hope. On this Christmas Sunday, we enter into the full-throated celebration of the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ, who is Immanuel, God with us. During this season, which technically extends through January 9, 2023, we celebrate that God is with us today, now, and forever. The entire season rejoices in the Incarnation, the truth that the Son of God became human.
I was reminded this past week that Christmas is not one thing, but many things. Phillips Brooks, in his Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” reflects that in Bethlehem’s dark streets shines an everlasting light, bringing together the human hopes and fears of all the years. Steven Charleston, a Native American elder and retired church leader, made this observation:
“Every holiday is like a coin: there are two sides. On the bright side, there are all of the usual celebrations and laughter. On the shadow side, there are all those for whom the holiday brings reminders of past hurts and losses. If you are on the joyful side then turn that light to shine as a beacon for as many others as you can, reaching out to welcome, comfort and support them during this season of their struggle. If you are on the shadow side then abide as deeply in the Spirit as you can, remembering the past, but living in the love that surrounds you now, knowing you are safe in arms that will never let you go.”
As we enjoy the Christmas season, we have much to contemplate: the hardship of traveling to Bethlehem, the song of the angels, the joy of the shepherds, the hope of the newborn Savior, the peril of King Herod, the hopeful and foreboding blessing of Simeon, the treasuring of moments by Mary, the terror of fleeing to Egypt, and the praises of Anna in the temple. We are wise to leave room for the full gamut of experiences that surround this season. Still, my prayer for each of us this Christmas is that, whether in a major or minor key, we may enter into the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.