Refreshing Hearts One Sentence At A Time
And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, unto the City of David which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child. And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”
And it came to pass, when the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.And all those who heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2: 1-20)
That is the story of the birth of Jesus, as told in Luke 2, King James Version. When I was younger, my parents read this every morning in December until Christmas Day; this was just one of many, many holiday traditions. Others, included in Christmas tradition, were something like: we decorated the tree as a family. Each ornament had to have a meaning that related to either the importance of family or the Bible. Yes. Every ornament. Even the blue bicycle, the twenty or so-odd angels, and the eight hundred wise men. Even last year. I love my family, and I love my Mom and Dad, but I kind of gave them a hard time because, really, how many different reasons can you give for relating the angels to the Christmas story? “This angel was Soprano 1 when singing to the shepherds.” Or, “This wise man was the Camel Water Boy and got really annoyed at Balthazaar’s know-it-all-ness.”
My parents created wonderful activities that brought us all together, like baking and decorating cookies, and delivering those cookies to neighbors with a carol. While this had the potential to be embarrassing, I always thought it was fun, and our friends reacted positively. Then we were usually invited in for a cup of cocoa or to share with those cookies.
A lot of thought and purpose was incorporated into time with family into traditions. There were the Christmases that turned into chaos, such as the one – or two – when everyone came down with the stomach bug or flu. Or the one where my cousin ended up in the hospital, or the one where we didn’t have Messy Potatoes, or the one when I went with my husband, (then-boyfriend) up to his father’s place in Wyoming during the two worst blizzards Colorado or Wyoming have ever seen, wrecked my car, and didn’t get the car back until two months later. But then there were the great Christmases, with the candle-light Christmas Eve services, the gentle hymns, the Christmas morning pigs-in-a-blanket, watching the children opening their presents in giddy excitement, and realizing the great gift of a new baby that first Christmas with my Madeleine. But my baby can’t save the world. She isn’t the creator of the universe; she isn’t my great rescuer. She is a bright light, and a glimpse into the joy and love my Heavenly Father has for me. When Madeleine arrived in this world, she changed my life. When your baby came into your life, your world was changed. When Jesus came, he changed the entire world.
He gave us a real chance for peace, for hope, for a future.
One tactic I have tried – and which miraculously worked – to get my toddler to take a nap, was to sing hymns to her. It’s funny how old school is the best method sometimes, right?! Well, I flip through my hymnal and found that this particular melody gets her quiet very quickly, and as I sing it, and I sing it through the year, the words always ring true for my heart:
“It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
Peace on the earth, good will to men,
from heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
to hear the angels sing.
All ye, beneath life's crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!
For lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophet bards foretold,
when with the ever-circling years
comes round the age of gold;
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world send back the song
which now the angels sing.”
In the coming days, I hope you have many moments where you can rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing. If your plans go awry, if your families break out into perfectly choreographed dancing, if you notice empty chairs at the table, if your fridge overflows with leftovers, and if your pantry grows bare, may you feel the peace of God’s love and provision for you. And as the days hasten on, may you experience glad and golden hours, sending back the song which now the angels sing.
God bless us, one and all.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
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