Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.
- Isaiah 7:10-16
We know a lot about the line in Isaiah about a virgin giving birth, but do we know the context? King Jotham’s son, Ahaz, was an evil king, sandwiched between good King Jotham and good King Hezekiah. When he touted that he would not put God to the test, that was in response to God demanding him to put God to the test. And then Isaiah prophesied about the virgin birth as being the sign that Ahaz did not want to ask for. When you do not wish for God to be messing in your affairs, you definitely do not want God telling you that you are doing wrong, thus you ignore God. I am convinced that an atheist pretending to be offended by prayer was just the government’s excuse to ignore God. At least it turned out that way. Most of us are in the Ahaz camp, ignoring God, including a lot who go to church each Sunday.
That Christmas prophecy is kind of strange, at least in context, but I was thinking of other memories of Christmas past.
My wife had a tradition in her family of going to midnight mass (Catholic) and then opening one Christmas gift before going to bed. When I became part of the family, the youngest three were all teen-agers. I wondered how that tradition worked when the children were smaller. If I opened a toy at 1:00am, I would not have slept!
As for the traditions that we had, we were never allowed to open presents early, except for two years. One year we each got a Bible, KJV, and we used them to read the Christmas story before going to bed. The other year we got matching polyester bath robes, red. My Dad wanted pictures of us on Christmas morning, which did not go well with the daughter who was around the age of losing the “teen” label or had just turned 20 a month before. “No candid photos until I have primped up!!” So, the purpose of the early present was for naught.
But about that time in our Norman Rockwell style life in the backwoods of Mississippi, someone killed Rudolph. That may take some explanation. Someone had reindeer on their ranch in Oklahoma, I think, and they had a cousin in our county, actually a neighbor of ours. They hauled the reindeer over so that the reindeer could be petted in the court square while the children were waiting to sit on Santa’s lap after the Christmas parade. That was our county tradition. You watched the parade. You stood in line. And then Santa gave you a plastic mesh stocking full of candy. Ah, tradition. But that year, to keep the crowd entertained while waiting, we were supposed to have reindeer to pet, but one of the reindeer was killed. The news said it was Rudolph, but we, as children, were told that this was a spare set of reindeer in case the original set got tired. After all, there were millions of kids getting presents. Seems logical that the reindeer needed back-up… So the “real” Rudolph was still at the North Pole. The red-neck hunter was never identified as far as I know, but the reindeer idea was cancelled as being too risky. I got to see the reindeer as they were penned only a half mile from the house.
That memory has made me think, especially after over a decade as a Safety Director. I think that Santa should wear a reflective vest and the reindeer such wear Hi-Viz (high visibility) orange sweaters or T-shirts. I am sure Santa employs more than ten elves. That means that, if on US soil, he is subject to OSHA safety rules. We cannot afford to have reindeer get killed or Santa to be run over by a drunk driver coming home from a Christmas Eve party. And please, do not drink and drive!!
And my only other random thought is of the first time I met my wife’s older brother. He was going to the University of Texas, and he was home for the Christmas holidays. I came early on the Saturday before Christmas with a quart of egg nog. We put the egg nog in the refrigerator and the people who would soon become my wife, mother-in-law, and at least one sister-in-law sat at the kitchen table to play cards, probably Liverpool Rummy. With my mother-in-law involved, we were going to be loud, but even then, it took about an hour before my wife’s older brother woke up. Without saying anything to anyone, he walked around the kitchen table where we were; he opened the refrigerator; opened the quart of egg nog and drank from the carton. I was about to say that was for everybody, but my wife, the lady who would become my wife, stopped me. After about a pint was guzzled, he stopped guzzling to belch, then he finished the quart, scratched himself, said, “Hi, Sis,” and went back to bed.
The wonderful thing about having such a first impression was that there was nowhere to go but up. My opinion of him has never gotten worse. He has never disappointed. And he has often confirmed that initial opinion. And to think, it took him nearly fifty years from that first meeting to finally marry someone. I wonder why?
And to think that my boys thought he was the greatest uncle ever. Being single and a traveler, he took them with him to Vancouver, BC, Canada for a rafting adventure one summer, almost drowning our younger son when he fell out of the raft. They remember that adventure, but none that my wife and I took them on.
But is that not what we all do with our memories? We remember things selectively, for good reasons and bad reasons. That gets me to thinking again. What memories will we have in the next life of our life on earth? I am sure those memories will be selective as well.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.