Tonight will be Christmas eve and it seems to me that the country is a little sadder, a little more reflective, a lot more realistic, and a little less hedonistic this year. I know that this sounds like a weird opening for a Christmas message, but I think this is a healthy thing. I think many of us are longing for a simpler, more honest time in America.
I really miss Christmas and long for the feeling of Christmas I had as a child. For so long we have made Christmas so glitzy and vulgar that we have missed the real joy of this season. It is sad, but it's a part of the identity loss we are suffering as a people. Maybe this year, this adversity we are going through, is not all bad. And while I sympathize with families out of work at this time of year, perhaps this is giving us pause to reflect on all we've had, all we've lost, and all we have stopped being.
Christmas during my childhood is one of my sweetest memories. Sure, we had the tree and the presents, and the trappings of Christmas. But what I remember is not the presents or the trees, but the hot chocolate made with real cocoa. I remember the Christmas cookies made with all the love of Christmas past. I remember practicing for the Christmas pageant that the church children put on every Christmas eve. I remember going to the small little house of my grandparents on Christmas day with all of my aunts and uncles and all of their kids. I remember the snowball fights, warming by the old stove, and the giggling conversations of children amerced in the innocence of yesteryear. The Christmas meal wasn't about just eating, it was about family, tradition, and remembering.
I can still see my long lost uncle from New York sitting there at the table with his brothers and sisters and watching the bond being reformed ... becoming family all over again. I remember the story telling and the good natured ribbing. I remember the presentation of the turkey and the home made noodles (weird Christmas tradition at the Baker's Christmas table) which I loved.
I can recall so vividly the color of the sky as evening set in on Christmas day. That was a time when all the world was right. By this time in the evening, all the kids were wet, cold and tired and ready for more hot chocolate and freshly baked homemade pie. And following the pie came games. The kids would be at the table in the basement playing board games and the adults would play cards at the huge dining room table, which would comfortably seat about 12 to 14 people. Grandma and Grandpa had eight children and a large table was a necessity.
I remember the drive home to our little town of Rochelle in northern Illinois near the Wisconsin border. There was one street over which the trees made a tunnel in the summer, but in the winter, on those Christmas night rides home, I remember the way the moon silhouetted those leafless trees. I remember the blue and purple tint to the moonlight that colored the snow and made everything look cold, but somehow peaceful.
But I also remember what we celebrated. I know that Christmas is not the real time of the birth of the Messiah, but then we didn't know that … we just knew that this was a special event. From my earliest remembrance we knew the story of the shepherds watching their flocks by night. We knew about Mary, the young mother tenderly caring for her child lying in swaddling clothes in a cold dark manger. We knew of the star of Bethlehem and the wise men. We knew of the glory of the angels filling the sky as even the heavens could not contain the power and the joyous rapture of this event.
Luke 2: 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9: And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12: And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Peace on earth good will toward men. And yet there is no peace on earth. This Christmas we have members of our armed forces braving the elements and facing Islamo extremism around the world; our politicians have betrayed us again and again in Washington D.C., and state capitals around the country. Our financial crisis threatens to destroy our economy and millions of our country men are jobless and scared. Justice evades our courts and arrogance rules in the White House.
But even in this midst of this turbulence and betrayal, we can look forward to a time when all of this will be replaced with a prophesied righteous government which will be established forever. And fortunately, we have the surety, the down payment of the promise posited with us at this Christmas season. Let me share with you the prophecy of that time of righteous government, which came as the spirit moved the prophet Isaiah, 700 hundred years before the birth of the Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
9:7: Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
There will come a time when all that we see: the violence, the corruption, and the brutality of humankind come to an end and there will come to this earth that which the very earth itself has cried out for ... peace. The peace of Christmas; the peace that was wrought when the King of kings chose to make himself the peace offering for all of us.
It is indeed astounding to think that the Creator of all things would humble Himself to the birth of a peasant that we might be made kings and priests; And from that rude, cold and dark manger the world would find life, and light, and finally the peace that passes all understanding and brings joyous hope to an otherwise sad and broken humanity. How great is our salvation? How great is our God? How sure is the hope of those whose God is the Lord?
This Christmas season, Katie and I wish for you memories of the innocence of Christmas past, the joy of the shepherds as they gathered at the manger celebrating the fulfillment of all their hopes and dreams throughout the generations of Israel and in your heart, we wish for you, peace ... the peace that comes from knowing that our Messiah is no longer a helpless babe in a manger but the Lion of Judah and our loving redeemer that came to this earth for all, but more importantly He came for you. Had there been no one else on this planet but you ... he still would have come, for you.
That, dear friends, is the message and meaning and the Peace of Christmas and it is that, we wish for you all.
Jake & Katie Baker
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