Column – The Christmas story … retold again

Published 9:13 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

The year 2022 will soon be ending and become a historical narrative. We will remember some of the happenings, while others will be forgotten.

December means Christmas, a tradition celebrated annually with lots of activity, never forgotten. Sadly, the estimate of how many believe the Christmas story is very low, but the tradition seems to take hold of us as soon as Thanksgiving is over.

By December we find the stores are fully stocked with any new items we might enjoy. This year the grocery stores seem to have an overstock of alcoholic beverages. I hear it is often used to diminish fears and anxieties.

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A true understanding of Christmas can do a better job. Beautiful lights are strung around the neighborhood, a reminder Christ is the Light of the world.

The meaning of the word, Christ-mas may be less known and less honored than another well-known one, Santa Claus, which shares its fame, but both bring to mind the idea of gifts and giving. Beautiful trees, lights, Christmas cards and family and friends getting together are also a part of the annual celebration.

How, when and where did we get this tradition which makes us want to celebrate? How do celebrations differ today? My earliest memories are when I was only about age three. My brother, who was in the Navy, came home from California with his new wife. They bought my sister and me a small table and chairs. After that, the only gifts I remember were articles of clothing.

When snow suits became a popular item, we each got one for Christmas. Other than the bike my younger brother got, I don’t recall any Christmas “toys.”

Many things have changed or been “updated” as time and ideas have passed. In my childhood, the tree was cut from the back woods, decorated with a few breakable gold and colored balls my mom kept from year to year, strands of silver lining its branches, a tinsel star at the top. Later, an angelic creation topped it — each thing a silent reminder wise men were guided by a star when they went in search of Jesus, and an Angel was “over the place where Jesus lay.” In Sunday school and church, we always heard the story of Mary and Joseph and Bethlehem.

I was much older when the word “Christmas” began to have a deeper meaning for me. We were living overseas in a different religious culture.

We had children and I knew I needed to teach them why we celebrate. Christ had to be the center of our celebrations. The -mas is a shortened term for mass, a time of worship.

I wanted my children to know who Jesus is, the son of God,  and why he came.

Since that time, I have had a different feeling about the way Jesus’ birth is observed. We all have an appreciation for the artistry, a beautiful picture of the baby in a cradle, everything clean and bright, but it was not like that on the night when Jesus was born. He was in the cattle stall, placed in the manger for a bed — a very humbling experience. This was poverty, and yet the one who lay there had come from the royalty of heaven.

Six to seven hundred years earlier the prophets had written about him, more than 100 references in the Old Testament. Isaiah writes in chapters 7 and 9, “Unto us a child is born…the government will be upon his shoulders, his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, mighty God…” and then in chapter 53 “but he was wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities and by his stripes we are healed.”

There was no Santa to bring him gifts, but there were “wise men” who followed a star, who gave gold, frankincense and myrrh, expensive gifts the young parents would need when they had to flee from Herod’s edict that all boy babies should be killed to preserve his own dynastic rule.

The family fled to Egypt in the middle of the night. The God who was giving his son provided the means for the trip. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus did not stay long in Egypt. It was an idolatrous country. The prophet wrote,  “out of Egypt have I called my son.” His home would be the land of Israel.

Today’s more prosperous lifestyle will likely miss these details of Christmas, but they need to be regarded as “Christ-most” to remind us how God can meet us in our need.

If the alcoholic beverages I see stacked in the stores are any indication, I see a world that needs to hear and believe they can have a new life in Christ. Without the Savior, there is no other helper. He’s not a baby anymore.

Let’s give our hearts and lives to him this Christmas and find the new life he offers us.

Myrtle V. Thompson, age 94-plus, retired missionary, writer, author of “Living in Villages” and “Visiting in Palaces,” along with her latest, “Beyond the Garden Gate.” They are for sale on Amazon.com.