Christmas: Merry or Misery

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”                      Matthew 2:3 NIV

Christmas as a modern holiday season is filled with nostalgia, cheerful songs, anticipation, gifts and family gatherings. As the words of one holiday song put it, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I have to admit, I like that aspect of the season. However, our sense of Idyllic thoughts and reflections can cloud the realities of the season for many and the actual events of the first “Christmas.”

For many, Christmas can be filled with more misery than feelings of being “merry.” For those people there is a reason for pondering the Bible’s account of the “first Christmas.”

The story of Jesus’ birth in its reality is filled with trauma, troubles and challenges. Angels appearing with unusual messages. A husband finding his wife is expecting a baby and is troubled by the news, finds himself considering the most graceful way to exit the relationship.

The couple during the most inopportune time in the pregnancy is forced to make an unplanned journey to Bethlehem. When they arrive there are no suitable accommodations. There is no sympathetic member of the town, or distant relative that offered a place of refuge. So, the couple ends up in a cave protected by the elements but surrounded by sheep, donkeys and camel. It is hard to get around the crude surroundings and smells of that kind of environment.

The story doesn’t just have a “happy ending.” There are eastern mystics who come to Jerusalem with news of seeking a new “King of the Jews” (which was the title attached to Herod). Scripture is clear that the concern echoed from the chambers of the palace to the homes of the people. It could be said, “if Herod is upset, everyone is upset.”

In time we see the trouble escalates when Herod in his jealous rage, has hundreds of innocent baby boys slaughtered. The weeping far overshadowed and was remembered far longer than word of the angels song and the worship of the magi. Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus become “political refugees” seeking asylum in Egypt in order to escape the edict of King Herod. Did they experience “survivor’s guilt”?

This review of the reality of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth is not intended to put a damper on the wonder and the miracles that were taking place; but to point out that God’s plan often comes with misery, as well as miracles. There can be rejoicing for some and weeping for others.

Remember this Christmas, in the “midst of the mess” we find Jesus. It is there in our strife-filled life we can encounter the “Prince of Peace.” It is in our confusion and seeking direction, we can know the calm of Him who is the “Wonderful Counselor” and we can have assurance that our life and our world is under the control of a “Mighty God.”

Prayer for today… Lord, thank You that in the midst of the “misery” of life we can find You. May our hearts be open in the midst of the struggles and disappointments of life, to find you providing exactly what we need.