We have framed Christmas in big picture framing. That is, Christian theology has, with the benefit of time to reflect (like centuries of time!) determined that the birth of Jesus into the world is the ultimate good for humankind. It took 5 centuries, but ultimately, this ultimate good for humankind came to be celebrated between December 25 and January 6 (the same 12 days that ancient Romans celebrated the birth of Consus to the Sky god and the Earth goddess) as the glorious celebration of his birth.
So, Christmas is a happy, glorious, joyful time. Consider the traditional hymns: Joy to the world, O Holy Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Holy Night, and on they go. They are all joyful, glorious, celebratory and elevating.
The stories, if taken at face value, tell otherwise. I have any number of such stories in my life experience, and I bet that you do, too. How did this pregnancy happen? Well, it’s happening, now how to deal with it? We have to make a trip. The government requires it. It’s not a good time, but we have to go anyway. Our transportation options are horrible. You cannot believe how long that took, how long we waited, how painful it was sitting on that. When we got there, we could not find a single room in any motel. When we did find some space, it was horrible. You have no idea what we slept on, how the baby was born without any medical care at all, and where we had to put the baby after its birth. Then we had these day laborers who came by to visit. We didn’t know them. They told strange stories. Not a good time.
If there was a first Christmas, it was not a good time. It would have been a really hard time.
Point of story on this Christmas Eve? Maybe you are having a really hard time. Hard time is defined by how you are experiencing it. If it’s hard for you, it’s a hard time. And this story of Jesus and his parents on the first Christmas is one that may identify with you. And, if all those centuries of Christian theologians are predictive of something it may be this: your hard time, today, has the potential for becoming something redemptive–for you at the very least, and possibly for others.
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining,
it is the night of . . . your own joy unfolding (even if it’s not obvious now).