Column: Humble beginnings of the holiday season

It is interesting how people welcome this time of the year regardless of what faith or no faith followed. We stop to gather family and friends, employees and employers, to rest and shut out the hassle of the everyday rush. Even the weather seems to cooperate, and in our country’s cold and snowy northern climes, there is a refreshing silence and white snow that seems to blot out all the noise of regular days. For many, the holidays have their stresses and inconveniences. It’s a challenge for many working women with obligations at work, children, and relatives dependent on their energy and organizational skills to make Christmas. There are party gifts to buy and wrap–labels to be assigned, and names to be attached.

This time of the year, we celebrate a singular event: The coming of a child–an infant who will bring with him the fulfillment of a promise made by God to his people. Whenever I think of this, my mind goes to the opening chapter of St John’s gospel.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” — John 1:14

It has always been awe-inspiring to me when I read this first chapter of St John’s gospel. God comes to dwell with us. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, will come as a vulnerable child. He does not come in a chariot of fire or on a cloud. He was born in a farm stall, seeing no room for his parents in more comfortable surroundings. God comes taking on our human form in all humility.

A small bundle, vulnerable and needy of care as any human baby born. To me, this is worthy of meditating on over and over, for it gives you a clue to how much God desires to see his people and to dwell with them. God does not make a rock star entrance or a warrior entry into time and space. He is God’s word made flesh. Jesus comes looking every bit like us. He is human in all things but sin.

I have talked with nurses who have worked in the hospital’s maternity wards. They have all told me how they enjoyed their duties. To be around new life, to see the joy of mother and Father as they hold their new child. A welcoming joy that never grows old. This is how God came to us: small and indefensible, innocent, needing human help and care. It is strange to think we are trusted with Jesus as an infant, but this is God’s way of telling us how loved and vital we are to Him. This small child will give the world hope and grace and, above all, teach us how to live our lives so we may see the gifts we have been given: body, mind, and soul, how we may progress beyond selfishness and endure the world of time advancing to love itself in heaven. Somehow, this unique birth, this Jesus, Son of God, steps into human history.

Sadly, this event has become so marginalized by commercialism or lately found to be a cultural item that has outgrown its use in our secular society. Yet after 2000 years, humanity needs to rest, enjoy, and be brought back to this special night. Our Savior came into time and space to tell us how this small child’s sacrifice and truth would free humankind from its addictions and selfishness. This love’s power still shimmers in this season’s multiple graces. Of family reunions, the faces of children on Christmas morning, and the multiple flowers sent, presents exchanged or the hugs given and received, the Christmas cookies and dinners, we celebrate this joy of love and belonging. I wish all of you a Merry and Holy Christmas, and may the Prince of Peace be with you!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”( Isaiah 9:67.)

Kathleen Carlton Johnson, Ph.D., hospice chaplain, may be reached at faithtoday2023@gmail.com.


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