It is Christmas Eve. We are running about the house with preparations and last minute things. Beth just commented that we had put too many of our things on top of the credenza and, as a result, we were pushing the nativity scene to the side. That seems to be an appropriate metaphor for life in the build up to Christmas. I am not sure where you find yourself this Christmas. Or, if last Christmas, you thought you would find yourself in the situation you are in now. As for this family, we have been on an unexpected journey in 2013. Last Christmas we didn’t expect to be here, doing these things, in this way. Admittedly, we have let some of the things of life push aside the source of Christmas.
Does Christmas HAVE to be we expect it to be? Are we caught up in the notion that Christmas has to be white? We can thank Irving Berlin’s 1954 movie and song for that idea. Are we caught up in the notion that certain dishes must be served, parties thrown, or presents given? What expectations do we put on Christmas that must be fulfilled or we will be miserable? Are these just other ways in which we take the things of life and put aside the picture of the nativity?
Christmas, when it take away all the trappings, is about a baby. A baby who is God with us, Emmanuel, born of virgin, in a little town, to a poor family. He grew to be a man. Fully human and fully divine: he taught, he healed, he performed miracles, he pronounced forgiveness, he came to set things right again. For it he was crucified. Dead and buried, after three days, he rose again to new life. It is his death and resurrection that makes Christmas mean something.
That first Christmas was full of unexpected things. A young woman gives birth among animals and lays her newborn in a feeding trough. The announcement of the New King’s arrival does not come to power and authority first. Instead it comes to lowly shepherds. He isn’t given a royal welcome. Instead his parents must flee to foreign lands to preserve his life. Not what any of them were expecting.
The journey between Christmases is not what we were expecting. But it has been one filled with Awe and Wonder. Our prayer for you is that you would capture some of this Awe and Wonder of the Saviour whose birth we celebrate at Christmas time. No matter where you find yourself this Christmas (no matter where you are celebrating or if the ground is covered with snow) may your celebration be filled with Awe and Wonder if a Saviour born to us, he is Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas from Durham, England,
The Haynes Family
In January our family was blessed to co-lead a trip to the Holy Land. Below we have included a few pictures from Bethlehem.
The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 1, verses 18-25.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
And from the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 2, verses 1-7.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.