A light sprinkling of snow that soon disappeared has preceded the Christmas season this year. The days have been relatively mild, with blue skies reminiscent of October’s bright blue weather.
Leaves have fallen from the trees and carpet the forest floor in brown, except the oak leaves, which are the last to fall. Naked trees reach their bony branches skyward and shiver in the wind.
Pine trees stand out against the landscape and provide a refuge for the songbirds that do not migrate to the south, but spend their winters in the cold climate of West Virginia. Cardinals make a merry red splash against the green hemlocks, and provide a note of cheer to the dreary landscape.
Winter is late arriving, but Christmas will come regardless. If your Christmas spirit is dependent upon sleigh bells jingling as you dash through the snow, it will be hard to muster up this year. I have often wondered just exactly what the “Christmas spirit” is anyway. Is it the warm feeling you get at this time of year when white snowflakes come drifting down and cover the landscape with a blanket of snow? Or is it the festive atmosphere on the streets when you hear the jingle of bells and see the colorful displays of Christmas lights?
Could it be the Christmas carols that you hear on the radio and in the stores, or the anticipation of gifts you will receive? Maybe it is a combination of all these things that make up the Christmas season for you. I’m afraid if this is what Christmas means to you, that you are missing the mark.
Christmas is so much more than all these things. These are merely worldly trappings that have covered up the real meaning of Christmas. The story of the birth of Jesus is a beautiful one, but so much more than a story. It is a reality that has made a difference to all mankind, and given hope to the hopeless.
The world was dark when Jesus was born. Idolatry was rampant, with people worshipping Jupiter, Mars, and various other Greek gods. Romans worshipped Caesar and other idols. It probably was not in December when He was born, but more likely in September or October as many historians think. It was warm enough that the shepherds were still out in the fields with their sheep.
Whenever the time, Jesus Christ WAS born, and shepherds rejoiced and angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward man.” They sang in pure joy. The Prince of Peace, God in the flesh, had come to earth in the form of a lowly babe. Their song has been almost drowned out by the strident cry of the merchandisers, silenced by the noisy parties, and smothered by crass materialism.
Jesus Christ truly did come to bring peace on earth. For those who have accepted Christ into their hearts, there is peace. There is a song, “The only real peace I find dear Lord is in you.” Jesus told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (St. John 14:27)
There is no peace in a sinner’s life. I can remember vividly the load of guilt and fear that I carried in my heart before I was saved. The inner turmoil, the emptiness in my soul, and the unrest in my heart was almost more than I could bear. Isaiah 57:20-21 tells us, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
Then I met the “Giver of Peace” face to face. He called to me in a gentle tone, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I repented bitterly of my sins, and He forgave me. That was when “Peace on earth” came to me. It abounds not just as Christmastime, but all the year through.
Behind all the feverish excitement of the holiday season, the glitter and noise and merry-making, the song of the angels can still be heard by those who listen. Christ was so much more than a tiny baby who was born in a manger. He was not only the Child who was born, but also the Son who was given. He didn’t remain a baby, but grew to manhood to fulfill man’s needs. Although He was the Son of God, He was born in the flesh that He might feel the nature of our infirmities and temptations. The scripture tells us that “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.”
The shadow of the cross lay across the manger that night, but it was our hope for eternal life. My prayer for each of you is that you will find the real peace that Jesus gives. It is only then that the true Spirit of Christmas will fill your heart, and give you peace.
Christmas is a blend of memories, of childhood dreams and hopes realized, of excited anticipation and unbounded joy. It is best seen through the eyes of a child. It is memories of loved ones now gone, and sweet family gatherings that can no longer be on this earth. We pack away the memories of each Christmas day, and store them away, along with the Christmas card greetings and gift boxes. The cards may fade, and other decorations deteriorate, but the good memories will last through the years.
I have received many beautiful Christmas cards and greetings from friends, some from whom I have never met, and I love and appreciate each one. I wish it were possible to personally respond to each one. Your words have been an encouragement to me, and I want to wish each one of you a blessed and happy holiday season. May God keep you throughout the coming year.
“Shine out, O Blessed Star,
Promise of the dawn;
Glad tidings send afar,
Christ the Lord is born!”