The strange irony in Christmas is that it is a symbol of great hopefulness coming out of a situation that to all intents and purposes appeared hopeless. It is a story about a couple of very poor people whose marriage is getting off to a rocky start. A foreign empire has forced them to make a long journey even though the woman is close to term. No one is willing to give them a room where they can have their child in relative warmth and comfort. So they end up in a stable and eventually the baby is lying in a manger – a trough used to feed the animals.
But this Holy night has been remembered for over 2000 years as a night when the angels sang and it lives in our hearts as a night of mystery and glory where ancient promises of a Redeemer came true.
The irony continues into our own time as we say Merry Christmas to one another knowing full well that many people are dealing with personal struggles and problems – or even when we ourselves are struggling – coping with grief or loss or our own frustrations. We say our Christmas greeting with true joy though – no mater how muted – because the hope we do feel goes beyond a superficial cheerfulness. We say our Christmas greetings because that is the way we declare our belief that goodness lies at the heart of God’s creation – that we will not let the transitional circumstances in our lives or in the world separate us from out hope in God and life and the possibility of goodness in all humankind.
What really matters at Christmas is presence. The decorations are lovely; the food is wonderful and the presents are fun. And some of us may be lucky enough to be ‘present’ with those we love if that is possible. But the Presence we truly long for is the Holy One who is always with us when our hearts are open. We love Christmas because it opens our hearts – whether it’s the memories that come back or just being with family and friends. Sometimes it is just a ‘Merry Christmas’ from a complete stranger in a store or on a sidewalk that reminds us we are a hopeful people and our true family is everywhere.
I am enjoying getting to know the Parish during this exciting transition time as St. Stephen’s begins to discern the future, as well as, the process of calling a new Rector. Hope you are able to join us for some of our Christmas services and don’t forget the special envelopes for donations to Cameron Community School. Wishing you a marvelous and hopeful Christmastide.
The Rev. Dr. April Stanley