Christmas brings a blizzard of nostalgia, blowing and swirling in my thoughts throughout December.
There are sad Christmases I recall. Two Decembers when I lost grandparents. Christmas spent alone when a marriage crumbled.
There are also the great Christmases. A Christmas puppy. Christmas hunts with dad. The first Christmas with my bride. The year we got a magical Christmas eve snow and my kids experienced sledding for the first time.
But one Christmas stands out in my nostalgic mind. I was a volunteer for about 8 years at the Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farm in Austin; a living history farm. On December evenings one year, we held candlelight Christmas tours of the farm. I was one of the guides, dressed in my 1880’s period costume.
After guiding the last of the tour groups through the farm that night, and all the visitors were gone, I stood by alone looking over the farm. Candles twinkled from the windows of the cabins, thin tendrils of smoke wafted from chimneys.
The night was cold and clear, as Texas nights after blue northers tend to be. There was no wind; the night was hushed.
Faint strains of “Silent Night” from an old pump organ in the parlor of the homestead cabin drifting up from the creek bottom and across the black-land prairie.
I stood alone in the dark with the ghosts of Christmas past, my throat tight with a strange mix of sadness, thankfulness and awe.
I thought of the moment in history when the one whose birth the world marks time by stepped from His rightful place into humanity. He came to a nation looking for him in the wrong places. He came not as a conquering king born in a palace, righting wrongs with a sword, but as a helpless infant born to abject poverty. He wielded love as his weapon of choice. Not born of earthly royalty, but to a young woman who was subject to scorn for being pregnant before her marriage.
He must have stood out in his youth, for all the boys his age had been murdered by a mad king in an attempt to keep a throne that the child had no need of.
Imagine the whispers of the other mothers who lost their boys. Imagine the sideways looks at Mary for those who recalled an unexplainable birth before it was proper. Imagine the loneliness of a social pariah.
Later in life, sometime after the boy was about 12, no further mention is made of his father. The young man most likely experienced the death of his dad, and took on the responsibility of providing for his mother. Small wonder scripture tells us he was a man acquainted with sorrows.
Isaiah tells us a few of his names in chapter 9:6, over 700 years before his birth – one whom the angels told his father “you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
“For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ”
I hope that we all can find him to be a source of counsel this coming year when we need truth and wisdom.
I trust that we can rest in his strength when ours fails.
When our earthly fathers fail us because they are human, I pray we lean on a father who never changes.
And today, let us rest in the assurance that he indeed is the source of peace; heavenly peace…