We’re about halfway through the Week of Christmas, and it’s likely that you’ve changed holiday greetings with many, many friends and colleagues, all intended to commemorate the season and express heartfelt wishes for you and your family. All of these are great and well-received, and project a sense of comfort during this glorious time of the year. And many of the messages, like the one appearing here in this post, share a personal touch that really hits home. Special thanks to our colleague Bobby Charles for sharing this piece with us…
Christmas? Much – some timely and personal, some timeless, pure miracle. All good. Why? Because Christmas – celebrating Christ’s birth – is a birth of hope. Who does not need hope? We all need it – the fast faith of a child, that lifts and leaves you quiet.
The birth of hope dispels fear – and should this year. COVID-19 is on many minds, rightly or wrongly. Older Americans are told to hibernate, isolate, cloister from loved ones, and guess what? They are lonely, discouraged, depressed. Who would not be? So, they turn to faith.
Meantime, younger Americans are told not to endanger the old, wear masks, stay away, no socializing, no school, no sports, no retorts. Avoid friends and travel, stay remote. Who thrives in that environment? No one. Even the young hunt hope.
To this, add social distancing on a grand scale – polarization of politics, an upside down, contested presidential election, fear of radical ideas overtaking time-honored traditions, values, common sense, and common purpose, never mind our Constitution, sacred rights, safe nights.
But hope lives. Have no doubt. Hope is born and beaming, beacon in the darkness. Perhaps no accident, this year is the first in 800 when a light as bright at the Christmas Star shines in the sky. On December 21, for ten days, Saturn’s glow overlaps Jupiter’s, creating a beacon to the West.
Think deeper. What message comes with Christmas? What words do we hear – yet often never hear? How about these, displacing fear with hope. From Luke: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” From Matthew: ‘…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid …”
And from Luke: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone upon them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
And the joy itself – Christ’s birth, Christmas, promise of salvation – delivered in a child. Like the poor to whom Christ ministered, fear is always with us. But faith displaces fear with hope.
That is the message – so often delivered, so often lost, even at Christmas. Experts say “do not be afraid” appears 80 times in the Bible, and “fear not” more than 360. Maybe, there is something in this. Maybe, after all, young children get it – even as we adults hurry on, missing it.
Think about concrete sources of hope – Supreme Court’s new composition, rulings protecting worship, speech, and self-defense. Closer to home, families string lights, cook, cuddle and tease, place stars and angels atop their trees. They affirm – we affirm – faith survives adversity and grows strong through it.
I am reminded of a family event years ago, really two events – linked by the ineffable ribbons of time, fast faith of a child. Some 30 years ago, I delivered a eulogy for my grandmother, voice cracked. Close friend of hers said: “Do not be sad, be glad, few have a grandmother like yours.” In time, that friend grew ill – and just before Christmas one year, she died. Our daughter was very young. Sensing our sadness, she refused it. Like my grandmother’s friend, she lifted us. “Dad, can you imagine a better place to celebrate Christmas than in heaven?” I was speechless.
Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses, as congressional counsel for five years, and wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003) and “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), the latter on WWII vets in a Maine town.