Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

This has been a challenging December run-up to Christmas. Indeed the whole year has been a struggle, both maritally and financially. It has been particularly challenging in that this is the first Christmas since we married that Bungirl and I have not been able to get anything for each other. As much as I despise shopping in any form, one of my favourite things since we married has been to see how well (or how poorly) I was at selecting her gifts. And I will admit that 1A in the favourite things department is to also see what I was given.

But all this thinking about gifts, and the lack thereof in this house for 2007, my mind goes back to what for me and for many Christians is the core of what Christmas is about - the ultimate gift of Christ, and what the forgiveness he freely gives all who ask. It occurs to me, particularly as an American in 2007, with a life of significant wealth relative to the rest of the world, and enjoying a relative abundance of freedom, that my life does not reflect what is the usual state of humanity across the pages of history. Indeed, the vast majority of men have only known, and multitudes still only know, little more than oppression, war, poverty, misery, and despair. Yet it is in moments when we realize this condition, that the radical uniqueness of the Gift of Christ stands out clearest and starkest of all. Intellectually I realize that my life, as hard for me as it seems sometimes to be, is vastly better, wealthier and easier than that of a 1st century Judean shepherd, or a 12th Century English peasant, or a 21st century Iranian Christian. What oppression, pain, misery and despair I may know is that of a spoiled child not always getting his way, but even in that, the starkness and brightness of the Gift of Christmas stands radically apart from the everydayness of everyday.

If you are at all familiar with Handel's song "For Unto Us a Child is Born", part of this passage from Isaiah may be familiar to you as well, but I think particularly this year, the whole passage echoes deep in my heart, and as miniscule as my darkness and oppression is, I can gladly and joyfully praise the coming of the Child born to all of us.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Merry Christmas to all.

* Quick note - before playing the video, page down and pause the Christmas music tab. Otherwise you may get a rather bizarre sound*