Emmanuel has come
By A. Ray Lee
Some may call it the holiday season, but the faithful call it Christmas. It is a time of faith, hope, and love. We celebrate because the prophecy given through Isaiah has been fulfilled. Emmanuel has entered our world in the person of Jesus Christ. We sing for joy out of grateful hearts as did the angels when they announced his birth. The presence of God is with us. Phillip Brooks expressed so well the impact of his coming when he wrote “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Someone has said Charles Dickens has done more to influence the ways in which we celebrate through his novel “A Christmas Carol” and other writings than even scripture has. Dickens wrote in a day when multitudes of people lived in abject poverty. They existed in squalid surroundings with little hope for tomorrow much less the future. He imagined a special time in the year when the cares of life could be set aside for a day. Hopefully, love and care would be expressed through a good meal and the giving of simple gifts.
I love the intention of Dickens’ heart. But we Americans have a way of taking something good and improving upon it causing it to lose its original purpose and its message. Are we guilty of lessening the import of the gift by becoming so engrossed with the package that we miss that which is wrapped within? Even Dickens would be amazed at the extent to which we have gone in our celebration.
Lest I be labeled as an old scrooge I join you in celebrating the season. I love some of the traditions which have developed around this time of year. I search for traditional Christmas music on TV and the radio. My Heart is thrilled when occasionally I can find a choir rendition of “The Messiah”. My joy swells up within me when in a reverent voice “O Holy Night” is sung. I join in the singing of time-honored carols.
I love the giving and receiving of gifts. As a child, I looked forward to Christmas morning and the opening of gifts. The anticipation often exceeded the gifts under the simple cedar tree we had cut on the farm and crudely decorated. But there was always hope that what I had wanted would be there. Later in life, I learned the best gifts cannot be wrapped in gaily colored paper and tied with an attached red bow.
I miss the pageantry of living nativity presentations and salute those churches and organizations which carry on with the outdoor events that help us get up close to a place like that where Jesus was laid in a manager. They make his coming real to a generation that is not acquainted with nature and its marvels.
I look for lights like those which accompanied the angels as they heralded the birth of a holy child who had come to save his people. The Lee family lived in an area that did not have electricity until I was almost fourteen years old. There were no security lights to be seen anywhere in reach of our house. Inside we had a small kerosene lamp that was moved from room to room casting shadows around the walls in its dim glow. I dreaded going into the darkness of the night. I rejoiced when permanent lights became available.
Emmanuel brought light into the world to dispel the spiritual darkness. Like the star which guided the Wise Men to the young Jesus, we have the light of God to lead us in search of life and truth in him.
Phillip Brooks concluded the hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem with this prayer: “O come to us, abide with us, our lord Emmanuel.” Amen!