Rev. Dr. Scott D. Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY
I wonder if that first Christmas went down the way they had all hoped. Probably not.
Was Joseph a little discouraged when he learned that his fiancée was pregnant out of wedlock with God’s baby? Was Mary conflicted when the angel told her she’d birth the savior? I’m sure they were tired when they reached Bethlehem. They had to be disappointed when they heard there was no room at the inn. I wonder if Mary wanted more for her son when she laid him in the manger. I wonder if Joseph wished he could do more . We know that pretty much everyone was terrified… Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the magi, Herod and “all of Jerusalem” (mt. 2:3).
(Not to mention, we often overlook how immediately after Jesus was born, the holy family had to flee to Egypt to save his life. In the same way, we often overlook that all the baby boys whose parents didn’t take them to Egypt, lost their lives. “Holy innocents” we call them. I wonder what they’d think about that.)
That can’t be how anyone had hoped it would go down… with discouragement, confusion, exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, fear and grief. In fact, when you think about it that way, it’s a wonder that we still celebrate the occasion at all.
It’s beginning to look a lot like this Christmas is going to have some of those same experiences. Discouragement and disappointment seem inevitable. More and more, we hear of the fatigue that is setting in on so many – pandemic fatigue experienced by those who are isolated, those who are sick, and those who are overworked. Many of us will experience some form of want this Christmas. There will be no shortage of wishes made. And fear will certainly be a part of this Christmas story – fears of getting sick, of businesses closing, of overwhelming hospitals, of being alone, and so much more.
I wonder in what ways this Christmas will not be like the one we hoped for. I also wonder if it will be what it needs to be. And, secretly, I wonder if it will exceed our expectations. I wonder if we will be surprised at what God has done in, with, and in spite of everything we are feeling and going through.
I wonder if it will be a season we look back at with wonder.
That is, after all, the reason we still celebrate that occasion that went so awry… because of all the wonder that filled the day.
What a wonder that Joseph didn’t walk away.
What a wonder that a young, common girl gave birth to God.
What a wonder that a manger could be repurposed.
What a wonder that those magi defied a powerful ruler to protect a lowly babe.
What a wonder that the tired found strength.
What a wonder that the fearful found courage.
What a wonder that God became flesh and dwelled among us right there in the middle of discouragement, disappointment, fatigue, want, and fear.
No wonder we celebrate Christmas.
So, rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to you, O Israel.
In the Way,
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