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December 31, 2006 (The First Sunday after Christmas)—“And So He Was Born”
Interim Pastor Steven Jensen
Most Christmas nights I remember as both child and adult seemed to be a let-down. The specialness of the day was dissipating, and there was nothing I could do to hold on to the spirit and wonder of Christmas. The anticipation that had built for weeks went out with the crumpled wrapping paper; the Christmas carols lost something of their exuberance; the special twinkle of the Christmas lights was more subdued; the crisp brightness of the stars had lost their splendor; the more gentle, kind, and loving nature of people slowly slipped away; the gathering of distant family and friends turned to good-byes and talk of next visits. I know I am not alone in feeling such things.
How does such a special day lose its specialness so quickly for us? Across the world, most congregations note that the Sunday after Christmas is one of lowest attendance of the entire year—so soon after every folding chair was occupied.
What was it like the day after Christ’s birth in Bethlehem? The angelic choirs had stopped singing and proclaiming Jesus’ arrival. The shepherds returned to watch over their flocks. After registering with the proper authorities, Mary and Joseph began making plans to leave that stable and return home when mother and child were able. Any others who were aware a child had been born there gave it little thought as they dealt with the demands of simple survival, large crowds, or business requirements.
As Robert Huldschiner and Robert Bornemann put it in their “Reflections on an Ancient Birth,” in a ho-hum voice the narrator states:
“And so he was born.
A child born in the agony of pain in most unsuitable surroundings.
A microscopic speck on an as yet unwritten page of history.
One would pass by the scene of this pathetic moment and look the
other way in prudent decency, not to assume a partnership in suffering.
How pleasant distance is, how reassuring.
“And so he was born.
And the world did not hold its breath.
And there was no silence on earth.
And the star did not break the dark.
And there was a murmur of voices of the unborn,
the frightened and timid,
of the may-be people, the almost men,
the inert multitudes that wave with the wind.”
Mary sings to her now sleeping child:
“Through the longest night of my pain
you have kept my hurt in your hands,
in your tiny hands, in your soft tiny hands.
You have cradled my heart and my heart is warm,
and the promise of new life is born.”
The chorus responds:
“But the day still fades into night
and the houses still crumble to dust
and fear stands tall over dusty towns
and death stalks the streets at all hours.”
A voice rises out of the despair:
“The promise of new life is born.
Now let your minds go free
and give your hearts a rest.
Let time be stopped in endless space.
Accept the wonder of this grace
and let your life know peace.”
By all outward appearances in Bethlehem and all other cities and towns around God’s creation, little hand changed that day. Life went on. But life for all humankind would never be the same.
Immanuel—God with us—had been presented by God to his people to experience human life as one of us and teach us how to live as His children. He would show us and teach us of the incredible and inexhaustible love of the Father. The Word, God’s Word, became flesh and would dwell among us. To all those throughout human history who had prayed for a Savior, God responded that day with His Son, Jesus.
The message, “Fear not,” I believe inalterably changed the lives of all who heard it. That message is repeated for us by the One who has come to us. “Fear not!” “I come to give you life and give it more abundantly.”
Even today life will have its challenges for us. But the Christmas message, once allowed to enter and take up residence in our hearts, provides the assurance that God is with us and we need not face those challenges alone.
The gift you have again been given this Christmas will never need to be exchanged, will never spoil, will never fall apart, will never need to be replaced. The more you use it, the more valuable it will become. It is the one gift that truly “keeps on giving.” Accept the wonder of this grace and let your life know peace.
Copyright © 2006 Steven Jensen
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