Otterburne, MB – It was Christmas. I was in grade five. I can picture it like it was yesterday. Family tradition said that we opened most of our presents on Christmas Eve with grandma, parents, siblings and cousins. But, on Christmas morning at home, we would get the best present of the season. It wouldn’t be wrapped. It just sat under the tree with all the presents from the night before.
The year before, in grade four, I had received an electric football game. The deluxe version. For a whole year, I played and played. Set up the players. Flipped the switch. The little men vibrated down the green field. Thirty, 20, 10, touchdown! So much fun.
Now grade five. What would be under the tree on Christmas morning? After last year: Anticipation. Hope. Excitement. I walked out to the living room with my parents. And there it was. A music stand. A music stand? Anticipation thwarted. Hope dashed. Excitement squashed. A MUSIC STAND!?! I had started to play the clarinet in the fall and my folks thought this would be the perfect gift. How could they not know that a music stand would not bring joy to an active, athletic, fifth-grade boy? Maybe this experience is what led to the aborting of my mother’s four-year attempt to turn me into the next Benny Goodman.
A few rag-tag shepherds in the field. What did they hope for? Protection from the wind. Safety. A hot meal. A warm place to sleep. A wife. Children to carry on the family name. A good livestock price. Freedom from oppression. A long life.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they feared a great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not fear, for behold I announce to you a great joy which is for all the people” (Luke 2:9-10).
The Proverbs tell us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The fulfillment of hope brings great joy, a tree of life.
The ancient carol gets it right, “O little town of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Caesar Augustus was merely a pawn in Luke’s story, a great squasher of dreams, just like all earthly kings since then. They are not the source of joy. Neither is being born in a palace or even a visit from eastern magi. No matter how often our hopes have been dashed, the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of the Son of God, fulfills our dreams like nothing and no one else can.
This Christmas, as we meditate rightly on this one grand and fantastic miracle, our joy cannot help but grow so that it overflows in worship of the one born to be the Saviour and King of the World. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
– written by Providence’s own Dr. David Johnson, President