Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” — Luke 2:9,10, NLT

starry-nightHe called her a vile name, and when she took offense, he made the mistake of doubling down.

“It’s just a word,” he mocked. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

But it wasn’t just a word; it was a jagged knife, and she never forgot the way it cut her. So she built a wall, the first of many, and readied herself for the next time he would try to hurt her with his words.

Words are deceptively powerful. A simple “yes” can launch an army; a firm “no” can crush a dream.

Christmas is a season filled with words. Harried store clerks try to smile as they offer season’s greetings. Familiar carols ring through the malls, retelling the ancient story of an unplanned birth on a dark Judean night, where a company of angels filled the midnight silence with music, and an announcement of good news and great joy. These angels did not merely dazzle their audience with a stunning light show, but they spoke, using the local dialect. They communicated and were understood, and the words they spoke launched the stunned shepherds on a hunt for this remarkable baby.

As Christmas approaches, I remember words spoken by aunts and uncles and grandparents, loved ones who have been gone many years now. This season of joy is tinged with sadness for many as we sometimes find ourselves separated from those we love, whose voices and words we cannot hear no matter how much we wish we could change the circumstances that have driven us apart.

It’s why the season can be melancholy, as words and memories threaten to overshadow that small, remarkable word spoken by the angels in the dark of night: joy. Christmas rightly understood is all about the joy that wells up as we realize that God our Father and Creator has reached out to us in love through this child whose birth we celebrate each December.

The God who created us whispers to us that he loves us, that he has not forgotten us, that he himself has joined us in history, joined us in the harshest darkness of our winter nights to speak of the possibility, the reality, of joy.

All who, like those befuddled shepherds, have gone searching for the child born in Bethlehem have discovered joy at the end of their quest. May you, too, experience the joy of Christ this Christmas season.

Photo credit: Northern Colorado Astronomical Society

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