I love this time of year. I grew up in the fifties in small town America. (Yes…yes…I did see the occasional Tyrannosaurus rex stomping through the woods.) That means I grew up in the era about which they made the movie “A Christmas Story.” I could have been Ralphie, right down to the glasses he wore. And that Red Ryder, carbine action, BB gun with a compass in the stock, was a coveted item. Anyway, I still carry a lot of nostalgia with me from those days. I loved the family time, the exchanging of gifts and the playing together. Growing up I didn’t really think of Christmas as a religious holiday. I was taught that no one really knows the actual date of Jesus’ birth…and, anyway…we were grateful every single day for Jesus’ coming and for all His sacrifices for us, especially His willing death on the Roman cross. That made sense to me and so Christmas came to be more about family time than anything else. And family time, like every other good gift in life, came from our Father God.
I, for one, am glad that our nation has chosen to honor Christ at this time of year by remembering His birth and the purpose of His life on earth. I’m glad that many of us get to spend time with loved ones making more precious memories to sustain us in days ahead. But to be honest, I would have to say that I am both glad and sad about Christmas in America, as I think many are. The commercialization of this time is disappointing…the equating of happiness and gratitude with expensive gifts…and the stress of over-much preparations and hectic schedules can steal the real joy from us. And while I’m glad that folks turn their thoughts toward Him Who brought peace on earth and good will towards all, I am sad that for many of those same folks their religious thirst is too quickly quenched. But that’s all the more reason for Christians to keep living and telling the Greatest Story ever.
This year, in America, things are not the same. The slaughter of the innocents on Friday morning, December 14th, is the reason. The mind-numbing horror of what happened to twenty precious six and seven year-old children, along with the six adults, has changed us all. All is not well in our world. All was not well in the world to which Jesus came either. His birth resulted in a murderous fury in Herod, the so-called Great, who slaughtered all the males, two years old and under, in Bethlehem and its vicinity. “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel, weeping (again) for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). This year, at Christmas, we will be weeping too. But we will do more than that. We will focus on how to better protect our children and the children of the whole wide world. We will love them with all our hearts. We will work, along with God, to restrain evil and uphold good, especially for the children.
As another black day goes down on the calendar of the history of our nation, in the faith and hope that evil cannot destroy, we will still say, “Merry Christmas” to one another though it be with tears in our eyes and a trembling in our souls. May we so live that God will continue to bless America!