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Think on These Things: The other side of Christmas

I like to refer to that version of the Christmas story as the stained glass version

Rev. Brian Krushel, Clearwater United Church

December is here and that can mean only one thing – Christmas has arrived. For some that is great news but for many others, it is not.

We know the Christmas story well, or at least one version of the story. Cards and carols tell us of how it came upon a midnight clear or during a silent night in the little town of Bethlehem; they tell how Jesus was born away in a manger when angels from the realms of glory sang “Gloria!” as shepherds kept their watching over silent flocks by night; and they say how all of this is joy to the world that we ought to go tell on the mountain.

The story has become such a part of our culture that one hardly even needs to consult a Bible to know it.

I like to refer to that version of the Christmas story as the stained glass version. It’s the version that engenders many fond memories and inspires great art. It’s the sanitized version where a blond haired baby lies cooing in a soft manger of hay, backlit with moonbeams and twinkling stars. It’s the version where sheep look like great big cotton balls and angels are clothed in gold, silver and satin with rosy cheeks and long flowing hair (again, usually blond). It’s the version where Mary and Joseph look content and rested, wearing freshly laundered flowing tunics and the animals in the stable are washed and groomed.

But read the story a little closer and new details begin to emerge. Like how Joseph was considering leaving Mary because she was pregnant and they weren’t married and it would bring shame to his family; how their travel to Bethlehem was part of an oppressive government policy; how Herod, the governor in that region, becomes paranoid and orders the mass murder of all male infants under the age of two in the region; and how Mary, Joseph and Jesus become refugees after the birth by fleeing to Egypt to escape this cruel despot.

The fact is, the birth of Jesus occurred under much less than ideal circumstances. But we don’t often hear that because it doesn’t make for very nice stained glass windows.

Many people find Christmas to be a difficult time. It can bring to mind those loved ones who have passed away whom we dearly miss. It can remind us of those friends and family with whom we are not speaking or from whom we are estranged. It can remind us of our many losses, the tragedies, the shortcomings and the failures.

When all the world around us seems happy and bright, those who struggle with day-to-day life, struggle even more. Add to this the colder temperatures and the waning daylight and it’s no wonder that many find it hard to be merry at Christmas.

Acknowledging this is the first step to healing, giving ourselves permission to grieve our losses and misfortunes is the next step. It doesn’t have to consume us, but we can give ourselves the time and space to recognize that not every part of our life is joyful and triumphant. When we do, we are very much in line with the real story and the whole story of Christmas.

And when we do, we just might find that in spite of it all, there is a way to find some comfort and joy in this season.


Editor's Note: North Thompson Funeral Home will host its annual Christmastime gathering for bereaved families in Clearwater (across from Brookfield Mall) today (Thursday, Dec. 5) 2 – 4 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m.