I suppose I am rather old-fashioned in liking wrist watches, wall calendars, and diaries. A new generation uses its smart phones for telling the time and the date and checking its schedule. But I have several wrist watches and occasionally buy a new one when traveling to add to my collection. And this is the time of the year when an old friend and a sister in law send me wall calendars which I enjoy hanging in my apartment and turning over each passing month. There is a sort of happy routine linked to the passing of time which is comforting in a funny sort of way. Holy Apostles produces a calendar each year using the Episcopal Church Calendar. Not only does this calendar give you the date but it each day is color-coded to the Season of the Church’s year. Looking at my calendar today I noticed (not for the first time to be sure) that the Christmas white (for Christmas Day) is surrounded by lots of red days (depicting martyrdom). These red days mark St Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas) on December 21; St Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr on December 26; and the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem on December 28. Christmas, as we all enjoy it, is a magic time, full of tidings of peace and joy; focusing on the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem long ago. We all enjoy the romance, the beauty and the good feelings which the nativity story brings. After all there is nothing quite like a new birth in a family to give pleasure, joy and a sense of a hopeful new beginning. We associate all those elements with the Christmas story.
But the Christmas story is so much more than a beautiful birth story. The angels tell the shepherds “To you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” In other words, the new baby whose birth they are to witness is the One, God’s One, who is to save the world through his life, death and resurrection. The infant Christ if you like contains the total story of God’s Saving Love.
For that reason, it is not by chance that the Calendar of the church celebrates martyrs (those who died for the Faith) like Thomas and Stephen as well as the infant martyrs of Bethlehem around Christmas. Their deaths remind us that the Christ Child is real child, in real time, and in a real and fallen world, whose life, death and resurrection form the good news of our faith for which children, women and men throughout Christian history have died.
May Christmas this year bring you light, joy and comfort as well as a sense of abiding hope in the Saving Love of God we have in Jesus Christ.