“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you the good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' ”
– Luke chapter 2:8-12
New Year's commentary inevitably will mark the past year in terms of divisiveness, anger, disappointment and tragedy. The quiet reflection of Christmas Day, however, places a challenging year in perspective and positions us all for a brighter, more peaceful future.
We now know much divisiveness grew from public discourse that might have been intentionally provocative. The differences between us aren't as deep as some forces would have us believe. We're reminded of that daily, whether it's chatting with neighbors or joining the entire community in cheering on a talented local high school student.
Christmas smooths the rough edges of divisiveness. As we join to worship or to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season, petty differences over politics are easily forgotten.
We find community when we drop a donation into the Salvation Army's Red Kettle, buy gifts to be distributed by the Allen County Christmas Bureau or gather food for Community Harvest Food Bank.
Likewise, anger seems to fade this time of year. Political protests that erupted in violence seem distant now, and the message of the Christ child's birth overshadows any other words or actions. We find strength in the Christmas story and the hope of a new year just around the corner.
Disappointment seemed to come in many forms this year, but particularly disappointment in public figures whose personal behavior dimmed any good works they might have done. The season, however, is a reminder those most worthy of respect are the heroes among us – those who heal, protect, teach and serve. Their selfless gifts are shared throughout the year.
Tragedy – some created by nature and some by man – tested even those of us not directly affected this year. Who could watch news coverage from the Las Vegas mass shooting without wondering how such evil exists? Who could see homes devastated by floods in Texas, by fire in California or by hurricane-force winds in Puerto Rico without feeling some small measure of despair?
But even the tragic events are tempered by the love and example of this season. From northeast Indiana and elsewhere, people rushed to disaster zones to lend help and hope. Others dug deep and sent donations to ease the suffering. Many offered prayers of relief. All were inspired, no doubt, by the unselfish example of the one whose birth we celebrate today.
This is a year in which the spirit of the holiday has been tested, but it's certainly not the first such year. As the world pauses to reflect on the meaning of Christmas, a commitment to fulfilling its promise should be the gift we give to ourselves and to each other.
Today can mark an effort to move past the divisiveness and turn anger to love. It can mark a new appreciation for those closest to us. It can lend strength to face tragic events with courage.
Enjoy the quiet of this day to recharge the spirit of Christmas within us all.