“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more”
Matthew ch2 v18..NIV.
The Traditional View:
When I think of that first Christmas, I think of a happy child in a well lit stable, sleeping snugly in a manger with plenty of straw and a big warm blanket to keep him warm. I think of the shepherds, the first people other than the parents to set eyes on this ordinary looking, yet remarkable child, I think of three men from the east, wearing expensive looking clothes and bearing expensive gifts. I have visions of cattle, lambs and donkeys, gazing intently on the holy infant with adoring eyes. Heavenly voices swirl around inside my head, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth”. Looking at that first picture Christmas postcard nativity scene through my rose coloured spectacles gives me a glowing feel of contentment; how peaceful, how tranquil and how reassuring. All is well in the world.
The Unholy Night:
But somehow, I find my conscience troubled. How could I forget the slaughter of the innocents? In my intoxicated utopian daydream I had forgotten the less fortunate that first Christmas morning. I had forgotten the sacrifice of all male children two years of age and less at the whim of a jealous king. How must Mary have felt when she heard of all the other mothers mourning the slaughter of their children. Her joy at the momentous birth of her first born must have been drowned out with the thought of the screaming, the panic, the wailing and the hopelessness of death’s brutal finality?
How could I forget that the helpless baby that was lying in a manger or to give it its more vulgar title a feeding trough for cattle and sheep, was born in a s***hole, which was essentially one huge fire hazard? Then I think of how he turned out, a homeless wanderer, I guess you could say young Jay Cee Carpenter didn’t have the best start in life.
When I think of that scene of slaughter, suffering and mourning and its modern day equivalent of children sacrificed to drugs or alcohol by their addicted parents and who will probably make the same mistakes in their adult life, or the children who live in slums with little to no heating and no warm clothes to keep out the biting winter chill or even the man who feels worthless because he has lost his job and can’t take care of his family properly, I ask myself, where is God?
“I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me. Then they will reply, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison and not take care of you? And he will answer them, ‘yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it to the least of these people, you refused to do it for me!’”
That passage turns the question of “where is God?” into, where am I? Do I listen for the
silent cry of hungry and neglected children? Can I hear the cry of hopelessness that comes from the very heart of fathers who can’t give their families the best life has to offer? What about the heart wrenching tears of mothers grieving for their children who have become another statistic in the yearly drug related death toll? Then there’s the homeless, destitute, heartbroken and those trapped in violent relationships that are too afraid and weak in mind and spirit to break free. And let’s not forget the families who are still up to their ears in debt from Christmas past, do I see their struggle too?
So, in the midst of the commercialism, consumerism, greed, festivities and debauchery, try and remember those who are
suffering, whether it be through job loss, grief, poverty or some other reason, look upon them with kindness and give a thought to the less fortunate and if you feel up to it, give someone a surprise gift . And who knows maybe next time, just maybe, the star of Bethlehem will shine on you, after all they’re part of the Christmas story too and some little act of kindness might just be the miracle someone needs to lift them above the mundane, and help them join in with the true festive spirit. Go ahead, be a miracle maker.
“God bless us, everyone”!