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Hope, joy still brighten Christmas

Heritage ImagesGetty Images The nativity scene
SEASON OF PROMISE: It may be a different Christmas for many families, but the hope, joy and promise it brings are still there.
Challenges of the year dim in the light of the promise of Christmas.

’Tis the season to celebrate. In spite of all the challenges of 2020, the eternal promise and joy of Christmas is as strong and comforting as it ever has been.

During a recent conversation with a counselor at a farm management agency, we discussed tax season and how those checks from the Market Facilitation Program and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, as well as crop insurance payments and disaster aid checks, are taxable income. Welcome as they’ve been to help farmers keep it together, the tax bills will be coming due in a matter of weeks.

We laughed about the inevitability of that and he said, “You do remember that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem to pay their taxes, right?”

That’s in the familiar Christmas story in the Book of Luke, but I don’t think it gets noted often, and it’s pretty easy to forget that baby Jesus was born in a stable miles from home because his parents were on a deadline to meet with the tax man.

The rest of the message, as it should, gets more attention. Although many of our family celebrations will be smaller and more distanced, just as Thanksgiving dinners were, we can all still take joy in the season and celebrate the biggest gift of them all: eternal life.

One of my favorite Christmas carols addresses the meaning of the holiday in a time of great strife, the Civil War. The carol is based on a poem written by one of my favorites, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, during the Christmas of 1863.

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet, the words repeat of Peace on Earth, Good will to men.
And in despair, I bowed my head; there is no peace on Earth, I said.
For hate is strong and mocks the song of Peace on Earth, good will to men.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with Peace on Earth, good will to men.”

That’s an important thing to remember as we observe a Christmas Eve, which for many of us, will include only a “virtual” Christmas Eve church service. We can light our candles and read that familiar story aloud, and be glad that God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.

I wish all of you and yours a very, merry Christmas.

And absolutely, next year will be better.

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