For some, of course, Christmas can be a painful season. A few years ago I preached the funeral for my wife’s favorite aunt during the holidays. On another occasion, many years ago, I officiated a funeral on Christmas Eve for one of our best friends who was barely twenty-nine. The Holidays are not always joyous. But the meaning of the day when God sent His Son to save us from our sins is all the more meaningful.
We all know the stories that led up to the birth: Joseph and Mary on their long journey to Bethlehem, turned away from every inn until they found a stall where the child was born; the hovering star that led the Magi from the east bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The shepherds shocked from their sleep on the hillside by the angels of heaven proclaiming a Saviour. But we pay little attention to what happened “the day after.”
Like most of us, Mary and Joseph had little time to enjoy the Christmas events that surrounded them. They were immediately faced with Herod’s efforts to hunt down their son. The soldiers fell upon Bethlehem with a vengeance, slaughtering every male child two years old and younger. (Matthew 2:16). Warned in a dream, Joseph fled with his little family to Egypt where they spent eight years hiding as refugees from Herod’s wrath.
Thousands today are living in exile, refugees from war. In some places believers are spending these days in prison for their faith. Some are facing death because they have embraced Jesus as Son of God and Saviour. Many others have heavy hearts from the loss of loved ones.
The full story of Jesus’ birth embraces both the heights of joy and the depths of sorrow. Whether we are filled with celebration and happiness or thrown into heartache and despair, God is sufficient. He has been there. He knows our joy and our sorrow, and He has given His Son that we might know Him. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, the prophet Simeon had told her, “A sword shall pierce your soul.” (Luke 2:35). Many years later, after Jesus had finished all that He was sent to do, Mary watched Him die for our sins on the cross. Luke says she “pondered all these things in her heart.” May we ponder these things, too, on this Christmas Day, on “the day after” and throughout the year that we might know Him and embrace His love in both the joys and the sorrows that come.