Christmas sneaked up on me this year. There is no snow in Wisconsin to remind you that we’re in the deep of winter. The lights wrapped around houses and trees lost some of their brilliance against snowy backdrops. And I’ve just been wrapped in a whirlwind at work. I haven’t had a chance to pause and reflect on the Christmas holiday.
O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol (and I especially love how Scott Cash performs it). At Christmas Eve church service, I learned about the history of this old poem. Written by a French winemaker, put to song by a Jewish composer, later condemned by the French Catholic church, and introduced to America in her abolitionist era, the song’s melody, lyrics, and history empower the haunting glimpse of what Christmas meant and means.
A religious minority group living in the vast empire of Rome awaited a savior, someone to rescue them and to fill their lives with hope. Their ancestors were displaced refugees and slaves, and they hadn’t tasted the sweet wine of hope since their exile from home. Each day they carried this story on their shoulders–until the night they received word that a king was to be born unto them. Within the confines of a dirty stable in a dismissible town, Christ’s birth was both a promise fulfilled and a bastion of hope for this people.
It’s hard for me to understand the need for a savior, one man or woman that would carry all my hopes. I imagine it is hard for most of us to understand that feeling too. Do I really need someone to save me? Am I really without any hope?
The Milwaukee Bucks have been mired in a flux of mediocrity for over a decade. In early 2000, they had some glory days with the likes of a young Ray Allen and a promising Australian center in Andrew Bogut. But rocks fell and winds passed, and the Bucks never gathered a legitimate contender’s moxie… until Jabari Parker (and arguably Giannis Antetokounmpo) was drafted in 2014.
Jabari Parker is a great example of a savior in our world today–not only because was being sent to a needy franchise that risked being moved to a new city, but also because the hope that he provided can be quantified by the devastation that swept over the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks following his knee injury. Jabari was, for the Bucks, a bastion of hope, and the symbol of a promise of return to the early 2000s.
In a similar way, this is what Christmas means to me. It is a time set aside for me to recall why I am filled with hope, to consider how Christ is my “Jabari Parker”. It is a time, as O Holy Night lays out, for me to consider what that night in Bethlehem must have been like for two new parents and a whole community. Christmas is when a promise was fulfilled and when a banner of hope was raised to its apex. I am thankful to have an entire season to celebrate all of this, and a holiday to remind me of what it means.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!