Man’s mind is a significant skirmish field for the emotions. The constant tug-o-war between what we ought to do and what we do, how we ought to feel and how we feel interjects confusion compounded with guilt into the maze of life. Those who are trained in the science of the mind and emotions tell us that the Christmas holiday season is one of the peak times for upset emotions. Many reasons make up the basis for this. The contrast of memories of carefree childhood holidays versus the pressure of the adult world of holidays can cause confusion by the paradox of how we would like to feel and how we feel. Peaceful and happy holiday scenes and melodious strains of “sleep in heavenly peace” contrast drastically with the hectic holiday pace, late hours, pressure and frayed nerves. However, a real look at the first Christmas reveals a great similarity between their day and ours.
Briefly take a look with me at the real Christmas. It consisted of two people under immense pressure, trusting, believing, with a long wait before they saw their faith become proof. They were vulnerable to criticisms, hurt, and misunderstandings among friends and family. They fellowshipped fear and lived with pressure.
A lot of strange stories were circulating and strange events were happening. Zacharias had lost his ability to speak after a strange spiritual experience. Old Elizabeth was carrying a baby with the dangers of delivery of a first child at her advanced age. Lots of talk and strained, strange expectations were held in tension by long periods of waiting for whatever the outcome would be.
There was political and ecclesiastical unrest and corruption. There was economic pressure. There was spiritual confusion. If they were God’s chosen people, what was the explanation for their position in current events?
Then the proverbial “last straw” was added to their already stressed lives. Federal intervention – a census involving an involuntary, hard trip at an inconvenient time, an additional tax on a strained budget. How will these two very human people make it through this season? Topping the last hill, Bethlehem looked good – a little respite was in sight. However, there were no rooms and further complications developed in the form of real physical pain. The baby wasn’t going to wait until they got back home. He was coming and he was coming now.
Lonely, rejected, depressed, desperate – where was God in all of this? There had been promises given – You are favored of God – God is with you – The Holy Ghost is doing a work. They were far off voices from a peaceful past. The angel had come uninvited, interrupting the routine of their lives. That angel was now long gone and where was God in all this confusion? Right in the middle of it!
“Emmanuel, God with us!” God interjected Himself into the mainstream of human life. The lyrics of an old song come to mind: “Without reluctance, human form His substance, our God and Savior came, and Jesus was His name.”
One of the important aspects of Christmas is that the first Christmas involved normal people coping with all of the conflicts of life and God came right into the middle of it.
So, here we are – Christmas 2016 – Pressure, problems, fears, and failures. We are often surrounded with strange, unexplainable, not-easy-to-see-God-in events. We are confronted with economic pressure and governmental uncertainty. In many ways we are forced to wait long for our trust, faith, and belief to turn to proof. The necessary risks are sometimes frightening. In the course of events we become weary and wonder, we ponder and are encouraged, we suffer back-sets and become confused, we are familiar with loneliness, rejection, and pain. Take heart, though – He is still “Emmanuel, God with us”! In the middle of it all, it’s the message of Christmas, He is here!