The Cry of Christmas
A few warm tears rolled down my cheek on Friday afternoon. I was just picking up the carpool on the last day of Christmas break and my oldest daughter handed me a picture she had just painted, which is to the left. At first glance, the intangible attributes of the Christmas holiday resonated in my soul … peace, beauty, and unspeakable hope before I quickly needed to open the door for the rest of the carpool. These were tears of joy, a cry because of joy found in those intangible attributes found in the “Christmas” narrative.
As a holiday, Christmas is most interesting given its history. Scripture itself does not record a date of Jesus’ birth. Theoretically, from the Jewish calendar, it may have been in early September. It wasn’t until the fourth century that Pope Julius I chose the date of December 25th. Interestingly, from America’s earliest time, Christmas was not always a holiday and was even outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681 carrying a fine of five shillings. However, further south, at the Jamestown Settlement, it was embraced.
When one looks at the narratives of the “Christmas” story, the birth of Jesus, one could imagine a cry coming from the manger, even though there is no mention of him crying. It seems fittingly similar to how we traditionally imagine three wise men at the manger, even though Scripture mentions the wise men visiting at the house and in context would have been when Jesus was about two. There was most likely more than three as the only mention of three comes from the three gifts he received.
However, this year, upon reading the “Christmas” accounts in Matthew 2:1-12 and Luke 2:1-20, I am drawn to a certain portion following the account in Luke 2, specifically verses 34-35. The context prior includes the visit of the shepherds running to the village to find Mary and Joseph and after his naming and circumcision, eight days after birth. It is during the visit to the temple for the purification offering and to following what was laid out in the Torah.
It unfolds as a certain man, Simeon, who appears to have been a priest, praised God for Jesus. His inspired utterances proclaim of the infant bringing peace, being a Savior given to all people, and being the glory of Israel. This amazed Mary and Joseph.
He then blessed them, “…and said to the child’s mother, Miryam, “This child will cause many in Isra’el to fall and to rise, he will become a sign whom people will speak against; 35 moreover, a sword will pierce your own heart too. All this will happen in order to reveal many people’s inmost thoughts.” – Luke 2:34-35, CJB (See also Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53).
Just a page earlier, in Luke 1:26-38, Mary had heard utterances from the angel Gabriel:
“Favored woman, the Lord is with you”
“For God has decided to bless you“
These admonishments seem paradoxical in light of Simeon’s words, “moreover, a sword will pierce your own heart too.” How could such a favored blessing also entail such a future grief she would suffer? Are not God’s ways full of joy and peace, and not that of sorrow of grief? How could something so gloriously blessed cause such a depth of pain?
This is where I believe the cry of Christmas encounters our own hearts, as it did Mary’s. Yes, she heard the infant cries as only a mother could and recognizes each different pitch. These were also the cries of God made flesh dwelling among his people. Yet, I incline to imagine how she felt in her heart; a possible cry of her soul at Simeon’s words … a sword would pierce her own heart too.
Faith to believe allows one to enter into a realm of joy and hope indescribable in mere adjectives. It also does not exclude even the mother of Jesus whom was both favored and blessed the exemption of grief and sorrow that would pierce her heart.
This holiday, my hope and my prayer is that all may hear the message that came through the manger.
For the cry of Christmas,
A time for the calming of the soul to hear the cry of the one who was in the manger…
Hearing, in the process of coming to stillness,
In the silence before God,
In the now…
“You are loved, my favored one”.
My hope and prayer is that whatever season one may find themselves, whether a season of hope or in grief and sorrow, that all may hear the cry of Christmas from the one born in Bethlehem, making a way, and bringing a tangible message: “You are loved”.
I came across this video about six years ago and sharing if it may be an inspiration; Father’s Love Letter Inspirational Clip. To open, click on the green words.