by Rev Robert A Wendel
“Blessings on the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has turned his face toward his people and has set them free! He has raised up for us a standard of salvation. Don’t be afraid! May the God of hope fill you with joy.” (Luke 1:68; 2:10, Romans 15:13)
Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful, joyous time of the year. But, for many folks, it’s a time of acute stress and sorrow. Physical pain, loss, downright loneliness and depression is common even among church-going Christians.
Our world has been torn by bombings, shootings and world-wide acts of violence. Natural disasters – fire, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes have taken lives and made thousands homeless. Families have been broken by troubled relationships. And it’s hard to escape hearing or reading reports of the above and mistreatment of the fairer sex even reaching the Halls of Congress.
For so many it will be hard to hear or sign the hymns, carols and songs of the season. It might very well be difficult to think about giving or getting gifts. Still, in congregations around the globe, the Sunday before Christmas we’ll light the Candle of Joy singing the carols as people have done for more years than we can count.
One such carol is “O Little Town of Bethlehem” with lyrics by Church Rector Phillips Brooks penned in Philadelphia in 1868 as an emotional reaction to the assassination of President Lincoln and the Civil War. To attempt to heal his spirit, Brooks traveled to the Holy Land. The young Episcopal priest was so impressed by the worship service at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem that ‘he felt at peace’ and told friends, “Forever there will be a singing in my soul.”
Concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom made the following entry in her diary for 12/24: “What can we add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The percent gift is that HE gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”