Christmas in May, God provides all year long

Published 10:43 am Sunday, May 22, 2022

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

While the heat of our summer has begun to build, it seems apropos to revisit a cooler, gentler time of just a few months ago.  What with disease, inflation, gasoline prices, war and baby formula shortages, Christmas was a gentler time.

In the short story by Barbara Robinson, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” we are regaled with the less-than-saintly behavior of the six Herdman children. They burn down sheds, cause fights, disrupt classrooms, steal money and the girls smoke cigars Their dad and mother worked two shifts at the local factory, so she would not be stuck with her terrible children. So, they pretty much raised themselves, and it showed.

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These Herdman kids were always getting blamed, or accused, (when things could not be proven,) for what was going wrong in the town. Why, the only reason they got involved with the Christmas pageant, was they thought that there would be free refreshments. It was an added bonus that there was money to be had as the offering plate was passed, or that there were coins available in the tithe boxes.

This bunch was attracted to the role King Herod played in all of this. These kids had heard the story about the Wise Men telling Mary and Joseph, that Herod was out to kill Jesus. These youthful miscreants got it quite right in their anger. It was Herod who was the chief villain. He was a notoriously bad fellow. They fought each other for the role.

These children also threatened, cajoled and manipulated their way into the six principal roles of the church’s Christmas Pageant. They became Mary and Joseph, the three Wise men and the Angel of the Lord. Everyone anticipated mayhem and disaster when the day of the pageant finally arrived. Yet, it wasn’t any kind of disaster. In truth, it was a new understanding, an epiphany for everyone, including the Herdman’s who were present that very special night. Yes, the Virgin Mary had a black eye, several arguments ensued and the end included a ham and a manger. For the curious, a greater telling is available on the web. Suffice it to say that the full tale lives up to its billing.

These three Wise Men had been sent by Herod, to find this Christ child and report back to him. In the  process, in his zeal and fear, King Herod was killing all the infants in the realm. Consider, for a brief moment, the potential of their decision not to go a different way, and return to Herod and tell him of our Savior’s location. It is by God’s grace and His power that they did as Scripture tells us, as truly Wise men.

The story about Christmas is mysterious and, at the same time, wonderful and joy-full. It is about Jesus, the Christ. Yet, that’s only part of it. Christmas is about a new baby and his mother and step-father, who were in a lot of trouble: no money, no place to go, no doctor, nobody they knew. It was a very desperate situation. Yet, God did provide for them, as he provides for us today. We may know people in desperate circumstances that live in our realms. We certainly hear about them often enough. What kind of grace and understanding do we have for them?

It is quite easy to become enamored with the “comfortable view” of God’s sacrifice for us, by bringing His Son to us, in some sanitized world view. In truth, in spite of the horrendous circumstances, not only with the humble birth of Jesus Christ, but the establishment of His church and His ultimate Sacrifice, for us, today we have exceeding great joy. For you see, we are called each day, regardless of our personal spiritual “record,” regardless of our spiritual “priors,” regardless of our spiritual “rap sheet” to renew our understanding of Christmastide and the sacrifices that went into this gift and the many gifts, to us, that are from God.