Christians, be joyful: hope for the hole-idays

By Dave Henning / December 17, 2018

The Great Tree in the Walnut Room at Marshall Fields in Chicago, 1959.

“Christians, be joyful and praise your salvation,/ Sing for today your Redeemer is born!/  Cease to be fearful, forget lamentation,/  Haste with thanksgiving to greet this glad morn!/  Come let us worship and fall down before Him,/  Let us with voices united adore Him!”- Bach’s Christmas Oratorio

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”- Luke 2:10-11 (NIV)

Since 1907, it’s been a Chicago holiday tradition to eat lunch beneath the Great Tree in the Walnut Room restaurant at Marshall Field and Company. For more than five decades, Field’s used a 45-foot real tree.  They hauled it up the light well of the store.  In addition, firefighters monitored the tree and the Field’s design staff provided the glorious decorations.

In the early 60s, though, Field’s switched to an artificial tree.  As a result, today’s Great Tree hangs from the ceiling versus sitting on its base.  Thus, this preserves the structural integrity of the Tiffany Dome below.  Designers in this century include Lord Wedgewood, Martha Stewart, and Vera Wang.

As a child growing up in Chicago, my mother often took me downtown to enjoy the Great Tree.  But my greatest surprise occurred in 2007.  On the 100th anniversary of the Great Tree, waitstaff escorted Vicki and me to prime seating near the tree.  From fifteen feet away, we watched the tree lighting!

Writing in Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born, Hope is Here (2016), Max Lucado describes Christmas as a season of interruptions.  We enjoy interrupting diets for special Christmas meals or leaving work for a staff party.  However, interruptions like a downsizing or position loss stir fear and anxiety.  Consequently, Christmas feels more like a hole-iday than a holiday.  There’s more tear than cheer and more yuck than yule.

Therefore, Pastor Lucado asks, how do you experience hope and joy when you’re looking forward to December 26th more than December 25th?  Consider, Max suggests, how God triumphed in Mary’s story.  In spite of the chaos created through Mary’s scandalous pregnancy, an imposed census, an untimely trip, and overcrowded inn, Christ came.  While these things were unpleasant and difficult, they resulted in the world’s greatest miracle.  As Luke writes in his gospel, God used those struggles to accomplish His will: “And [Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger” (Luke 2:7 NKJV)

Do you, Max queries, also need that reminder?  That Jesus holds it all together?  Cling to Jesus, Max exhorts, for you can’t face a crisis unless you face God first.

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado observes, remember that even when everything shakes, God remains unshaken.  Hence, there’s hope for the hole-idays:

“Is your Christmas a difficult one?  Then take heart.  God is still in his temple, still on his throne, still in control.  And he makes princes out of prisoners, counselors out of captives, Sundays out of Fridays, and he still brings beauty out of Bethlehem.  He did it for them (Joseph and Daniel).  He does it still, for you and me.”

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Dave Henning

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