Newspapers can have some of the best quotes about Christmas and other holidays sometimes. I found these amazing Christmas thoughts a year ago. My Word of the Year — Joy — is sprinkled all the way through, along with one of my words from the past.
The best part of Christmas for me is how joy burst onto the scene…The season doesn’t just ask us to think joyful thoughts, to wish compassion and kindness on our valley, to hope those who have little might be provided with enough. The story bursts into our lives and demands some action. “Don’t just think about joy,” Christmas says, “Be joyful!” Don’t only wish compassion and loving-kindness on our valley; embody it, spread it, give it away!” What joy! What a blessing! — Rev. Jimmy Bartz, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Jackson Hole Daily, 12/20/17
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of man in Israel,” Simeon tells Mary. “And a sword will pierce your soul, too.” These are admittedly dark thoughts in a season of light. Many of us come to the holidays with pierced souls…but Christmas is not about mere nostalgia, and not without its comforts. The British author J. R. R. Tolkien – something of an expert on such things – argued that every great fairy story has a “turn” in which despair is suddenly and miraculously reversed and the heart’s desire is fulfilled. “It denies (in the face of much evidence if you will) universal final defeat…giving a fleeting glimpse of joy, joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” For Tolkien, this moment “rends the very web of story,” and allows us to see something real about the universe itself.
For Christians, the nativity story is the “turn” of human events. In a world that would not yield a bed to a pregnant woman, the miraculous reversal arrives in a manner no one expected. All involved are ambushed by hope. The very strangeness of the deliverance – involving angels, kings and a pregnant virgin – indicates that God alone has taken hold of the storyline. But there is a glimpse of joy beyond the walls of the world…It means that the cruel appearances of life are the lies, and that joy and grace are the deeper realities. It means that God is with us, that God is for us, even when we feel forsaken, especially when we feel forsaken. It means our exiled souls can find a home in Bethlehem. – Michael Gerson, Washington Writer’s Group, 12/25/17