Today is one of my favorite days of the year. There is something about Christmas EVE — the anticipation of the potentially noisy holiday celebration to come on a quiet, meditative day that might include a candlelight service or hymns (even if it also includes a little last-minute wrapping and grocery shopping).
It is the day for reading the Christmas story. My favorite version has always been in Luke, especially the part about Mary taking it all in, treasuring it all in her heart.
It is the day for thinking about what that little baby was meant to bring into the world; what we were supposed to learn from Him. Some of it we put into practice as part of our Christmas traditions: love one another, give, take care of those in need … But some, I think, we don’t give as much time.
Here in this story, a non-traditional family of soon-to-be refugees begins its time together as outcasts, for whom the rest of the world had no room. A good man had to figure out how to love and take care of his new wife and adopted son while moving from place to place and remaining stronger in his faith than most of us could possibly imagine.
An extraordinarily faithful woman had to figure out how to raise the Son of God … as a human. Think about that for a minute. She had to raise this child to be as humble as the day of His birth. In no other way would he have been able to convey his message that we are meant to love God and love one another; that the hypocrisy and judgment of those who believed themselves the most righteous was a quicker path to ruin than dining with the tax collectors and sinners.
Mary and Joseph, simultaneously forced to begin their life as a family in a stable, and surrounded by shepherds and wise men bringing praise and gifts to the baby in their arms, had to raise a child who knew the law … and would one day turn it on its head. They had to brace themselves for great heart ache and pain, and overwhelming joy.
There is a sense, even in the stories of his birth, that Jesus’s mother had some idea of the pain he would suffer — and she beside him — for trying to tell the world they did not understand the ways in which they were sinning, or the redemption He offered. They did not listen then. Even till the end He had to ask for the sake of the priests, scribes, elders, politicians, soldiers and the public whipped into a frenzy, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
On this Christmas Eve, don’t we all owe that a little thought? What did they do? What didn’t they know? What lessons did they ignore, in favor of their own certainty of righteousness?
It’s a lot to consider, but not so much that it should overshadow the love and joy that should come to each of us on this Christmas Eve. Because tomorrow we will celebrate the gift of a little baby who did grow up to love and forgive; and it is an excellent chance for us to love and forgive not only each other, but ourselves.
This celebration is followed in a week by another celebration of new beginnings and fresh starts. Let’s take advantage of it, ladies and gentlemen. And let us all have a very merry Christmas!
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org