Today is December 20, 2016, the 355th day of the year.
On this day in 1957, Elvis Presley received his draft notice from Selective Service.
I actually had a couple in my car arguing over whether Uber drivers should be able to see where Uber passengers are. It was 2 a.m.
Have you ever thought of how the “War on Christmas” started? More on this later in the week.
I know the story. Within the pages of the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, I read of the birth of Jesus Christ into the world and it is worth as a joyous celebration as it can muster. I love the story of an unlikely teenaged girl chosen to become the mother of the Incarnate Word of God, the betrothed man who put aside his ego to care for them both, the angels who appeared to announce to the stinky, smelly shepherds the news of the birth of Jesus, and in turn they become the first evangelists. I know the story and the promised, everlasting joy it brings. As a Christian, that story is the beginning of what brings me hope.
However, some 2016 or so years later, as we turn the calendar pages to December and prepare to celebrate that event, there are times when the joy I am supposed to feel seems out of reach.
*In early December 1993, I traveled from Lakewood, CA to the small town of Cairo, GA to interview for a youth director position at a church there. It would be coming closer to home for me, but potentially, it was to be a huge move for our family. My wife would be leaving her home of 31 years. We’d be moving our 3-year-old. Two weeks after the interview, the uncle who raised me died suddenly a week before Christmas.
*In 2002, I had lost a job I loved and our then-family of four had moved to a new community at Columbus, GA that fall where I started a new job. A couple of weeks before Christmas, amidst all the stress and newness, my wife and I found out we were going to have a child. She was not planned.
*In 2004, I had been out of work for 9 months. The bills piled up and on top of it, I was depressed. Soon, I would start a new job, but things got worse as the owners of the house we were renting decided to sell. How would we find a house to rent in our circumstances?
*In 2015, I was four months removed from a shocking job loss. I had begun Uber driving and was playing for a church in Hudson. But, I was hurting as we entered the Christmas season.
The 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis: featured the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine. In the movie, Judy Garland’s character sings the song to her 5-year-old sister during a scene set during the Christmas season, as the father prepared to move himself – and later the family – to New York from St. Louis prior to the arrival of the long-awaited 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
The song ends with the stanza:
Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Frank Sinatra recorded the song for his 1957 album A Jolly Christmas. He is reported to have asked Martin to change the line Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow to something more “jolly”. Thus, the line, Hang a shining star upon the highest bough was conceived. However, I am one of those drawn to the original line, especially given the time of the movie’s release during World War II. It is said that a live performance by Garland brought WW II soldiers to tears.
There are fellow Christians that can’t fathom how a believer in Jesus Christ can “muddle through somehow” given the story of Christmas. And perhaps they are right. All I know is there are years I muddled through. I knew the story, but I still hurt. I still had pain. I still had uncertainty. I still had all the worries of a darkened soul. While those wintry seasons filled my being during a time when the world celebrated, I think God was okay with that.
The birth of Jesus Christ does bring joy, but more importantly, it has and continues to bring hope.
For Mary, I’m sure she worried about raising this child, but she knew of the hope her child would bring.
For Joseph, he faced the challenges of a poor carpenter, and I’m sure he had questions as to what was. But he knew of the hope Yeshua , God Saves, would bring.
For the Shepherds, they would return to the smelly, unrewarding job of tending sheep, but they rejoiced in the hope the angels proclaimed and saw with their own eyes the hope that lay in the manger.
Christmas is not about pretending all is right with our world. Christmas is not about pretending we don’t have scars and bruises. However, Christ’s birth, and our celebration of that event, reminds us we have one in which we can look for hope to overcome our circumstances.
We may muddle through somehow, but we can hope in the One who got in the mud with us when He came as a Child.