“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).
He proposed during the Great Depression. He apologized that he could not afford an engagement ring. She said she did not need one.
He promised her that one day he would give her a ring—a beautiful one. It would be a sign of his faithful love.
Twenty years slipped away. No ring yet. She didn’t give much thought to his promise. He did. He decided to give it to her at Christmas.
With her children gathered around, she watched as the presents were opened. She heard the oohs and aahs. She opened a box with her name on it: A set of potholders. She opened another box. Only crunched paper inside! She decided it was empty. Was it a prank gift? Probably!
Her husband watched as she tossed the box onto the pile of the used wrapping papers ready to be thrown out. He had placed the ring into a large box filled with tissue paper to keep her from guessing what it was.
She looked at the potholders and decided this wasn’t much of a Christmas. It seemed rather empty. Her experience is shared by many. The sights and sounds of Christmas can be beautiful. Good food shared with loved ones can be delightful. And the gifts!
But all this is like a beautifully wrapped box stuffed with tissue paper. Overlooking Christ in Christmas is to have an empty Christmas.
The evidence is there. Angels watch as humans try to fill the holidays with things that cause joy. But no matter how much money is spent, no matter how much alcohol is consumed, or how many attempts are made to find some peace and joy, the best we will walk away with is as of little value as a set of potholders and a box of tissue papers.
It’s not surprising that the season of good tidings and great joy often turns out to be a season of disappointment and sorrow. While the strains of Silent Night may fill the air, few there are who “Sleep in heavenly peace.” Ask those who pulled the Christmas Eve shift at the ER. Ask the cops. Ask the 1st responders. They will tell of the bloody domestic disputes and the overdose cases. They will report about the spike in suicides.
An empty Christmas is nothing less than a tragedy. Where Christ is absent, Satan fills in. He aims to leave little space for peace and joy.
Probably those shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields were looking for some comfort and joy during that historic night. They hoped no wolves would attack their sheep. They ate their evening meal. Some tried to get some sleep while others watched. They expected nothing more.
Instead, they saw an angel telling them: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
They heard a choir of angels singing:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Then they saw the Christ in Christmas: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”
It filled them with joy: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.” It was like when that bride of twenty years finally saw the diamond ring. Only better. Finding Christ in Christmas changes everything. An old Christmas carol declares: “And mans hall live forevermore because of Christmas Day.” That news is worth more than a thousand diamond rings.
With Christ in our lives, Christmas will never be empty. Will it?
We join with the angels to announce the news:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer
WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military.