This was going to be the year. Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. What could be more meaningful?
It was one of those bucket-list type of things. And surprisingly cheap.a return flight from Basel would only be a couple of hundred dollars. We know people who know people who would have found is a cheap place to stay.
Might never have another opportunity. Flying to Palestine from Canada at Christmas would probably be out of our price range. Then the pandemic hit with full force. We aren’t in Bethlehem on this Christmas Eve.
We chose instead to make a quick trip to Canada. Two weeks in quarantine was no fun, but we thought we would at least be able to attend the Christmas Eve service at our home church. For a while it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, but the increased lockdown expected to start today doesn’t come into effect until Boxing Day (Dec. 26). I guess the premier figured that canceling Christmas celebrations a couple of days beforehand might inspired normally sheep-like Canadians into armed insurrection.
Certainly this Christmas Eve is not what anyone would have predicted at this time last year. And everyone is hoping that Christmas Eve 2021 looks nothing like this one.
However, there are timeless truths that are woven into this day, pandemic or no pandemic.
We can still celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, even if we can’t get together with as many people as we would have liked. There was no big gathering that first Christmas either, just a man, wife and baby. Yes, there were shepherds, but my guess is they showed up about dawn by the time they arranged for someone to watch the flocks in their absence. The “wise men” came considerably later.
Perhaps being in lockdown allows us the luxury to time to reconsider the story of that first Christmas. Have you thought of it recently? Examined what it means for you?
In Germany I have met many refugees who have a hazy idea of what he holiday is about. One was saying recently that she thought it was the German New Year celebration. She didn’t know it was the celebration of the birth of a baby, a birth that had been foretold for centuries.
She didn’t know that the baby’s birth was part of a cosmic spiritual battle between good and evil, between God and Satan. She didn’t know that the baby was God’s son, in fact God incarnate. Like so many, she doesn’t know that Christmas requires Good Friday and Easter to have meaning.
The world celebrates Christmas because it is easy. Everyone loves a little baby.
It is different though when the baby grows up. When he starts preaching about God’s love and justice. When he tells people to love their enemies, even when they are persecuting you. When he starts challenging not just the establishment but individuals as well. When he claims to be God. When he says he will give his life as a payment for the sins of others. When he is resurrected from the dead.
When you look at the story closely, and what flows from the birth of that child, Christmas really isn’t easy. But it is true. And that is something to consider also.
What does Christmas mean for you? What relationship do you have with the baby who was God incarnate? What do you want that relationship to be?