When my kids are in the car, they have a habit of calling out “GRAVEYARD!” when we pass a cemetery. Then they hold their breath as we go by. It’s called whistling past the graveyard. At any celebration of life, what most people actually have in mind, is death - the elephant in the room. Most people cannot wait to escape the confines of a funeral home to suck some fresh air into their lungs. The fact is, at any funeral we are glad to be spectators rather than the reason for the event.
We just attended a funeral. It’s a hard thing to do before Christmas. The presiding ecumenical pastor said a prayer to the Spirit in the Sky whoever that may be. She said that the Great Spirit is a mystery without a name. We should all just have faith in something or another and that we are all one.
We came home and I watched a “holiday” commercial where a Hindu family lighted lights around a Christmas tree, laden with gifts. I have nothing against Diwali except to note that it is not Christmas in case anybody was confused. Then I picked up the newspaper where it said that the Christmas Market that opens every year in the Toronto distillery district is now being renamed the “Winter Market”.
It seems that everyone really hates Christmas, the holiday that bears the name of the one responsible. The more they insist on calling it “the holidays” as if to pretend there is a grab bag of possible reasons to celebrate, the more I look forward to the first week of Advent. I am looking forward to JESUS. It’s OK Jesus. You were not very welcome the first time around, anyway. It seems there is still no room at the stable. But the world might need you now more than ever.
Malachi is the last book of prophecy in the Bible, the book that separates the Old Testament from the New. In between Malachi and the coming of Jesus announced in the first chapter of Matthew, four hundred years passed without a word from God. It was called the inter-testamental period. The people would have to wait a long time for a bit of hope to show up.
After that, they may have welcomed what the prophet Isaiah foretold: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
I am also liking: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”
When the angel Gabriel appeared before Joseph, he was not shy about naming names. He said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to embrace Mary as your wife, for the One conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call Him Immanuel which means, God with us.”
There is much to avoid in the world. If you don’t like funerals, you are in good company. But we shouldn’t be shy when good news shows up. Our world, wracked in sin and death and war and a host of other problems, could use a bit of good news.
Hey, God with us, is good news. Jesus. He’s the reason for the season. Come on, don’t be shy. Dig in. Christmas, the celebration of the long awaited Messiah will soon be upon us and all those in need of a bit of hope can breathe again.