Thursday, December 19, 2013

A time for reflection


by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

Well it’s finally happened. After a year of writing for this blog, I’ve encountered a symptom known as “writers block”. For the past week I’ve struggled with what to write about. I could write something historical, amusing, or describe my anticipation for the 2014 season. With Christmas next Wednesday, I’ll digress into something seasonal. I really considered doing a Reds parody of “The Night Before Christmas”.

Sure the 2013 season was a huge disappointment for Reds Nation. The hopes we had on Opening Day were dashed on that cold October evening at P.N.C. Park. We can’t complain about back to back playoff appearances for the first time since 1975 – 1976. Hey, look at the bright side, we could be Cubs fans.

The other day my wife, Denise, showed a picture of my two daughters at the youngest first Christmas. She’s 24 now, my oldest daughter is 25. I stared at the fading picture and wondered, where did the time go? It seems like yesterday my wife and I were celebrating our first Christmas together, in 1987.

Useless Trivia; our 26 year marriage has produced five kids. Taira is 25, Brittany’s 24, followed by sons Jeremy 22, David (Arionna’s dad) 19, and Ethan who’s 8. Got to mention the in-laws, David’s wife is Miranda, while Brittany married Chad Chaney on June 1. We are very proud of the fact that all are active in our church, Jesus Name Tabernacle.

As I sit in my recliner, computer in my lap working on this piece, I look at our Christmas tree. My wife did an outstanding job placing the decorations on each artificial branch. Maybe I’m biased, but this tree looks like something you’d see in a holiday themed magazine. For a moment, and to take a break from my thoughts, I hold my granddaughter, Arionna, who’s celebrating her first Christmas like her aunt, my oldest daughter, did a quarter of a century ago. Her eyes sparkle as she stares at every blinking light, plastic icicle and other ornaments. I wonder what she’s thinking. Next year she’ll be crawling under the tree to play with the decorations. As her Grandpa, I can’t wait!

When I resume my writing, I think back to a time two thousand years ago when a very nervous carpenter, Joseph, and his very pregnant wife, Mary, were wandering through the village of Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. They were required by law to travel the eighty mile distance from their residence in Nazareth to his hometown of Bethlehem to be recorded in the census. Since automobiles were a few hundred years from being invented their mode of transportation was walking.

Useful Trivia; the Bible DOES NOT say Mary rode a donkey into Bethlehem, we just assume she travelled on an animal since she was nearing the end of her pregnancy, and walking the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem would have almost certainly caused a miscarriage except the child she was carrying was prophesied many times in the Old Testament. Read Isaiah 9:6.

This was to be Joseph and Mary’s first child and I’m sure both were nervously anticipating His arrival. Most rookie parents are like that. As the young couple go from door to door trying to find shelter, I could understand their frustration as they consistently get turned away. One innkeeper told them that he had no room for them in his lodge, but he had a covered stable outside they could stay at. Out of desperation they agreed. Shortly after settling in the baby was born. Not just any baby, Our Redeemer.

Flash forward thirty three years later to a somber April afternoon. The condemned prisoner takes a long walk to the top of a hill dragging a heavy cross. Midway through the trip another man was summoned to carry His cross to its ultimate destination. The spectators who lined the street jeer and mock His every step. Some of His supporters hide their despair out of fear of retaliation from the mob.

Weak, and in pain from the cross He bore and the beating He received earlier in the day, He arrives at the place where His death will soon take place. The soldiers place Him on the cross and drive spikes through His hands and feet. He is then suspended between heaven and earth with only the pressure He puts on the nails to lift His broken body up for each breath. The cross was designed to cause the body to weaken and allow death to come from suffocation. At the foot of the cross stands His mother. I’m sure she thinks back to the moment His birth, the angelic visitation she received to inform her of His birth, seeing the miracles He performed, and watching Him grow into manhood.

Six hours pass and the Condemned has died. Gently His followers remove Him from the cross and placed Him into a garden tomb. A large stone was rolled to the tomb’s entrance while Roman soldiers were ordered to guard the tomb out of fear His followers would try to steal His body. The world thought this was the end, but on the third day……

Have a blessed Christmas. No Jesus, no Christmas, any questions?

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