Every year the week before Christmas, St. Peter's Church in Purcellville, VA hosts a "Blue Christmas" service. The aim is to offer a message of hope and comfort to those who might not be feeling so holly jolly during the holidays. Heaven knows, there are many reasons to feel blue this Christmas. From the senseless, tragic loss of innocent life in New Town, CT, to the seemingly intractable political divide paralyzing our nation's capital, to the escalating tensions in the Middle East. It would be easy to give in to feelings of hopelessness, to let the long and dark December nights lull us into a mood of depression and despair.
Joseph and Mary no doubt felt this way as they found themselves preparing for the birth of their son in a cold barn on the road to Jerusalem. Those were dark days. But with the birth of one tiny child, hope was restored to a broken world. Fr. Tom Simmons, rector of St. Peter's, explained why the birth of Jesus changed everything on a cold winter's night two millennia ago, and why it changes everything for us today:
"Jesus was in Isaiah's words, 'despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.' We cannot gather at the manger with the grimy shepherds and see this tiny baby without acknowledging that over Jesus' manger lies the shadow of the cross. It's NOT the most wonderful time of the year in all the ways we measure wonderful, and yet in a strange way it is! It is the most wonderful time of the year not because you have to be cheery and happy and merry, but because you don't. You can have heavy hearts, and shattered dreams, broken spirits and deep wounds. And that's right where God comes to meet you. To comfort you, to restore you, too strengthen you, to give you peace. To die for you. to walk out of the grave for you, to hold you in the communion of the saints with those you have loved and lost. To offer you life that lasts forever. It's the most wonderful time of the year, for Christ is born! Light and love have come. God is with us!"
Immanuel, the Lord is with us indeed. No matter what life throws at us, God's love is unfailing and never-changing. So to all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble this Christmas season, to the sick, the friendless, and the needy, may the peace of the Lord be always with you. Amen.