Dec 25, 2017

The Christ Child

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Luke 2:1, 4-5

In lo the many years I have been writing “Israel Watch,” I sometimes opt to write a more reflective piece at the Christmas season.

Like this season.

As I write this I am listening to traditional Christmas music, thinking about readers and family and friends. Many of your write to me through the year. It really is a family.

So let me meander through my mind and heart and enjoy this wonderful time with you.

(I grew up in the era when Andy Williams’ Christmas special was on TV; I am right now listening to him sing “Away in a Manger.” Oh the memories!)

I remember the first time I walked into Manger Square, in Bethlehem. The trip from Jerusalem was a journey back in time. Actual sheepherders lined the roads. The Judean Hills were dotted with animals like those that saw the Christ Child 2,000 years ago:

The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib (Isaiah 1:3)

I have to tell you, being there in a now-Palestinian controlled town, dotted with posters of Yasser Arafat, I thought of things near and far: this was the place King David ruled from the first seven years of his Kingdom. Bethlehem has a strong Jewish history, and the marvelous prophecy given in Micah rings through the centuries:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.

And he shall be their peace. (Micah 5:2-5)

The “near thing” I thought of in Manger Square is the fact that amid all the chaos and evil in our world today, the Creator, who sent His Perfect Son to take our punishment, is preparing a wonderful world for all those who know Jesus.

This includes Palestinians. A paradise is coming, a new world where pain will not even be remembered.

Too many at this time of year are sad and lonely. It is a reality.
But I remember something too that my mother always told me: we can make a choice to be happy and content wherever we are, and with what we have.

Due to changes in my life and a family illness, I was contemplating a Christmas Eve (and possibly Christmas morning!) with just myself and my beloved friend, my dog, Stu. I write this just a few days before Christmas and it looks like we will indeed get together with family (but Stu and I might still drink hot cider and listening to carols Christmas Eve!).

We all obviously have stuff going on, uncertainties and certainly things we wish had gone differently. But we must—we must—count our blessings.

I just built a house on a sliver of my grandparents’ old farm, up against 40 acres of woods. The pond below me is the one I fished with my cousin growing up. I hauled hay in the pasture exactly where my house sits overlooking the hills and valleys. My kids are all healthy and good. Dear friends are good.

“Alone,” I have very much looked forward to decorating for Christmas and so I did. Vintage lights on the tree, music, candles. Each night as I lay down to sleep, I recite my blessings and am grateful.

A poor example, maybe, but a line from the Doors’ song, “Five to One” goes “No one here gets out alive.” Some of you are touched by death this season. Perhaps a loved one died at the holiday season years before and you can’t get past it. Maybe it has just happened. My mother’s husband succumbed to cancer yesterday, but look at the blessings: he lived far longer than anyone might have thought and had a wonderful final two decades. He told her over the weekend, “I’m going to see my Lord and Savior!”

We do not mourn as the heathen mourn. And especially at this time of the year, we are not living well if we do not give thanks for all we have. Most especially that the Child was born, and His Father protected Him until His appointed hour.

So that we might live.

Some of you will read this Christmas Eve, late, or even Christmas morning. It is my hope and prayer that you have an especially joyous day, and that you reflect on what you have and on what God has graciously given you and all of us.

Merry Christmas!