For the last 10 years, the last week in the year has been an emotional and spiritual roller coaster. This year this has even magnified.
Christmas is one of the few delightful festive times in Nazareth during the year. In my work in Nazareth Baptist School we regularly enjoy a joyful time of Christmas with a carnival for students and parents, decoration activities of class rooms, a bazaar to raise funds for the needy flavored with Christmas carols sung around the school. We also feel the vibe of the Merry Christmas in our surroundings: As we are located in down town Nazareth, the largest Christmas tree in Israel is located 200 yards away from the school as well as the city’s Christmas market.
After the regular cozy family gatherings in Christmas eve and Christmas day as is the custom among Palestinian Christians, we get an extended celebration in the image of the birthday of my brother who lives with his family in a shared building with mine on the 27th. On December 28th, a cold dark night exactly 10 years ago our mother passed away. She was compassionate, generous, caring and a cheer leader to her children- the best mom a child can ask for. As if the week did not have enough, last year my father in law passed away on the 29th of December. He was a kind loving gentlemen, a dedicated teacher and respected man. After the heights of Christmas, we remember these two precious patriarchs just in time to celebrate the new year.
How do you handle these emotional ups and downs especially when this year was probably the worst for most of mankind with closures, curfews, limitations, distancing and unfortunately many deaths – all resulting from the pandemic?
How do you mingle happiness with sadness? How do you as a Christian reconcile these mixed emotions and understand them? As human beings we are not machines that can flip flop with a switch your mode and mood instantly. We were created as one whole creation of God with a will and certain emotions. From the peak of Christmas celebration, you slip to the pit of grieve and the loss and then back. This leaves you in confusion.
Jesus’ birth included a similar situation: In a majestic scene, angels from the heavens sang in the fields surrounding Bethlehem (in today’s Biet Sahour town) and then the Magi with precious meaningful gifts came to worship the new born baby. However, not long after- this was altered to a vicious act of a government massacre of the children in Bethlehem and the quick flee of the holy family to become refugees in Egypt.
I think that deep faith in Christ accompanied with understanding Christmas and the cycles of life give meaning and enables us to unfold, at least partially, these events in preparation for the new year.
Christmas was not just a season of a sweet birth of a child in a manger in the midst of animals in Bethlehem. It goes way beyond that. It was the incarnation of God touching earth –connecting heaven and earth in order to redeem mankind. It was a new level in the execution plan of his wondrous love for humanity. It would be completed on the cross with his paying for the sins of humanity. In Easter we sing: His death on the cross has granted life to those in the tomb. We have to see Christmas as a meaningful part of such chain. This will lessen the confusion although aspects of the mystery will stay folded until the day we meet him face to face.
I recall what a theologian friend of mine who lost his wife shared. He told of the funeral ceremony of his beloved wife in the church. She laid in the coffin in the middle. He agonized during the service and his tears were running down his face but they were interrupted with a baby crying in church. It made him realize that these are cycles of life. One’s life ends while another is born and we all cling to the promise of the One who was victor on death.
Those that suffered in 2020 should have faith in the goodness of God and surrender to him for he is sovereign in all seasons of life. Despite any defeats, hurdles or losses, we will anticipate with hope that in 2021 we will see his glory in the brightness of his dawn that will cast the darkness (see Is 60: 2-3).
Have a blessed New Year.
*Botrus Mansour is from Nazareth, Israel. He is a school administrator, lawyer and writer. He serves currently as the Chairman of the Convention of Evangelical Churches in Israel. His book “Looking from the Precipice” is scheduled to be released in March 2021 and available for early purchase from Paraclete Press.
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