There are defining moments in our lives that determine which path we will take, which direction we will travel, and how long we will take to arrive at our destination. For many of us, those defining moments turn into defining days, weeks, years, or even decades. I have found the Advent season to be a defining period that reflects back upon my decades of defining moments.
I appreciate the people who extend sympathies about the loss of our son when I blog or post about it – twenty-five years later. Though it is true I often state that I will never get over my son’s death in response to the common misconception that any of us should ever “get over” the loss of a loved one, I wouldn’t trade any of my life’s experiences for the endurance, and empathy it has produced.
My life, my world view, and theological values and beliefs have all been shaped by the loss of my son. I identify with the quote by C.S. Lewis,
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
I don’t know how to see life any other way than through the lens of faith and in the presence of Christ. Jesus is my oxygen and without Him I am left breathless.
The Christmas season is a such a wonderful time of reflection for me. Not just because it s a warm, fuzzy, happy time, but because the history of Christmas reflects the truth of real life – when we let it.
Just as is happening today in Syria, the slaughtering of the innocent took place at the time and location of Jesus birth. Herod was murderer – so much so, that the writings of Josephus don’t even mention the biblical account of the slaughter of the male children under age two. In reality, there probably weren’t many males under age two, in the small town of Bethlehem at that time. Herod was known for the slaughter of multitudes so a few children would not have made history.
It was into that volatile climate that the Hope of the world was born.
It is also important to note, that the reference to an “inn” is not what we would customarily think of today. There weren’t any Comfort Inns or Best Westerns at that time, and people generally stayed with extended family members, which was in the upper rooms of two story dwellings. “Stables” were a cordoned off sections at the back of the house or caves, on the first floor. Joseph and Mary had traveled about seventy miles to be present for the census. A long and arduous journey for a very pregnant woman. It is also quite possible that extended family didn’t make “room for them at the inn” because of the shameful circumstances surrounding her birth.
For me, there is great comfort in thinking of Jesus born into this persecuted family environment. That his mother Mary and father Joseph may have been mistreated by their own kin. It reveals the very true nature of mankind’s treatment towards those who should be the most loved and cared for. It shows the necessity to care for mothers, infants, widows, and those who family and society casts aside. It shows how we tend to hurt the ones we love the most. How we quickly make judgments based upon circumstances when we don’t know the truth.
As a carpenter, he was also born to the poorest of the poor, not to the highly esteemed. He wasn’t the one given the front row seats or who others sucked up to for influence. He would have been the one with the small struggling ministry, just trying to get by, but loving every minute of serving others. That is how I identify with him in his “Christian ministry.” It is what keeps me grounded. He lived a very real life – no prosperity gospel for Him.
The circumstances of His birth (and life) reveal the enormity of the message of love that God is trying to get across to us – a love that spans culture, status, economics, race, nationality, creed, gender – even family.
A sacrificial love – wrapped up in a parcel of what life looks like without any evidence of true agape love. Hidden, buried, waiting to be revealed through other sacrificial love givers – even in the darkest of times.
The birth of Christ was wrought with sin, cruelty, selfishness, pride, and tradition.
It was also evidence of what a great difference in mankind a little bit of humility can make. A King of Kings not good enough to be given room in the suite because of personal prejudices and ignorance.
Yet he grew up to continue to live in humble love for us – even the shame and humility of the cross.
Christmas is a time to reflect upon the pain of this world and the hope, love, joy, peace, and LIFE that overcomes that violence through brotherly love, and Christ-like humility.
Yes, I reflect upon the loss of my son a lot this time of year – the violence of it all – but mostly I reflect upon the birth of Christ, exemplified through His humanity, His poverty, His suffering, His humility – His great love.
That is the real Christmas story.
Let’s make Jesus the reason for the season.