And now, finally it is Christmas Eve. The pub on the corneer of my street is open, and so is another favorite watering hole; and no doubt some of my friends are there and I have been contemplating going out and hoisting a pint. But really, I'd rather stay here and reflect.
For I can remember no Christmas Eve in my entire life where the situation in this nation and in the world was so dire and the outlook so bleak. Talk of falling off of the "financial cliff", increasing trouble in Europe, and general feelings of unease, even outright fear dominate the thoughts of many; and for most folks even if they are able to shove these concerns aside and allow themselves the merriment traditional to this season and this Day, somewhere in the near recesses of the conscience these concerns wait to re-assert themselves on Wednesday.
It is by no means impossible that we may wake up tomorrow to find that the news stations have interrupted all programming to cover a strike at Iran by Israeli forces, heralding the worst world crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis, and probably exceeding it even to the point of World War III.
And overlaying all this are the lives of the children slain in Newton, Connecticut and the emotion-filled argument that no one on any of the multiple sides has had the decency to delay until after the little ones were buried and the families had coped with such a miserable Christmas. And there is much I could say, but I have promised to belay that until after the New Year, and I will be faithful to that promise.
And as to me, personally; both of my parents are gone and my siblings are scattered across the country. None of them, nor my niece nor my nephews, has so much as sent me an e-mail saying "Merry Christmas". There is not one single person on this earth whom I could honestly describe as a "close friend".
Bleak, bleak, bleak. But I have this:
Tomorrow we celebrate (we who believe) God's decision to come and live as one of us, to experience being a little baby dependent on His parents for basic necessities; to undergo the rigors of growing up into pubescence and adolescence; and to be "God with us". And we returned the favor, thanked Him for the miracles He wrought, and responded to His counsel by convincing and cajoling a bunch of Roman pagans to torture Him with scourges, mockery, and a Crown of thorns and to kill Him by nailing him to the Cross, there to die an horrible death from a combination of shock, exposure, and asphyxia.
Being God, He didn't have to do this. He could have at any time lashed out, come down from the Cross, and annhialated the entire population of the Earth, spoken the entire universe into oblivion even as he spoke it into existance, and started all over again. But He did not, He suffered even unto death; and gave His Innocent Life as a sacrifice for mine (and if you believe this, for yours also). "For God so loved the World, that He gave His Son; so that whoever shall believe on Him; SHALL NEVER PERISH BUT SHALL HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE".
And after three days, He took His Life up again and was resurrected. Just how this was accomplished is a mystery but it was done nonetheless. He could have just claimed the title "LORD of lords, and King of kings" by fiat. But He - even being God incarnate - elected to EARN the title, and so He did.
Accounts of His Birth seem to put it sometime in the early spring, but traditionally it is celebrated at this time of year, when the long, dark and cold nights begin to give way to the light. Some say this is a sacreligious capitulation to pagan traditions, but I say it is most appropriate that He who would guide us to the Eternal Light should be celebrated in that season when the darkness begins to ebb.
Within a radius of a mile from where I write this, as this is being written, hundreds of youngsters have been kissed goodnight by their parents and sleep (maybe) awaiting Santa. There are those who will get the latest "fad" toys and then there are those who will count themselves lucky to find a stocking full of hard candy. And bless them all, whatever circumstance they are in. But the true meaning of Christmas is not presents nor is it merriment; and was best expressed in the following poem:
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
The old, familiar Carols play;
And loud and strong rang out the song\
Of "Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men.
Then in despair I hung my head.
"There is no peace on Earth", I said;
"For Hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of "Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
GOD IS NOT DEAD,
NOR DOTH HE SLEEP!
The wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With Peace on Earth,
Good Will toward men!
I bid you a very Merry Christmas.