It’s the day after Christmas. The house is littered with empty boxes, scraps of wrapping paper and strands of ribbon, evidence left over from the gathering of family and the giving of gifts. With kisses and hugs, children and grandchildren have started their long journeys home not to be seen for many months or another year. Life returns to normal, challenges of work and study and a new year. But the memories remain, of laughter and loved ones.
For some, of course, it has been a painful season. During the holidays I preached the funeral for my wife’s favorite aunt, and recalled memories of many years ago when I officiated the burial for one of our best friends on Christmas eve who was barely twenty-nine. The Holidays are not always joyous. But the meaning of the day when God sent His Son to save us from our sins is all the more meaningful.
We all know the stories that led up to the birth: Joseph and Mary on their long journey to Bethlehem, turned away from every inn until they found a resting place in a stall where the child was born; the hovering light that led the Magi from the east, bearing their prophetic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The shepherds shocked from their sleep on the hillside by the angels of heaven proclaiming a Saviour. But we pay little attention to what happened “the day after.”
Like most of us, Mary and Joseph had little time to enjoy the Christmas events that surrounded them. They were immediately faced with Herod’s efforts to hunt out their Son, the prophesied King of Israel. The soldiers fell upon Bethlehem with a vengeance, slaughtering every male child two years old and younger. (Matthew 2:16). Warned in a dream, Joseph fled with his little family to Egypt where they spent eight years hiding as refugees from Herod’s wrath.
Thousands today are living in exile, refugees from war. In some countries believers are spending these days in prison for their faith. Some are facing death because they have embraced Jesus as Son of God and Saviour. Many others have heavy hearts from the loss of loved ones missed at family gatherings.
The full story of Jesus’ birth embraces both the heights of joy and the depths of sorrow. Whether we are filled with celebration and happiness or thrown into heartache and despair, God is sufficient. He has been there. He knows our joy and our sorrow, and He has given His Son that we might know Him. Many years later, after Jesus had finished all that He was sent to do and Mary watched Him die on the cross, Luke says she “pondered all these things in her heart.” May we ponder these things, too, on this “day after Christmas,” and throughout the year to come that we might know Him and express His love every day.