Bill Vaughan was a columnist for the Kansas City Star, my hometown paper. He died in 1977, but a column of his lives on. Each year since 1959, a day or two before Christmas, the paper runs a column that he’d written a long time ago called “Tell Me a Story of Christmas.” The column has evolved now into an illustrated book and is known throughout the Kansas City area. It’s about a little girl who, on Christmas Eve, asks her dad to read her a story of Christmas. He begins by telling her a story of elves at the North Pole, but she interrupts, “No, Daddy. I’m tired of elves. Tell me a story of Christmas.” He attempts to tell her stories of puppies, reindeer and even what Christmas was like when he was a boy. Each time she would stop him before he could get very far. She’d heard plenty of stories like that. What she wanted was a story of Christmas. He sat back in his chair and began, “And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…” His daughter then rested her head against his chest and he told her a story of Christmas.
I share this because I think all of us need a story of Christmas. The world we live in is dark. The clouds of war may be gathering on the horizon. Bitterness and anger taint many conversations in our sharply divided nation. So many people seem to be hurting and struggling. What kind of message can help in troubled times? What can pierce this darkness and bring hope to people longing for something more, something better? Though there is nothing wrong with them, I’m convinced our world needs more than candy canes and winter wonderlands.
The only thing that will bring real hope and the opportunity for change is found in these words from John, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). That light is Jesus Christ. He is the One who offers hope and peace.
Jesus offers hope to those who are hurting and struggling. At the time in which Jesus was born the Palestine region was under the heel of Rome. About 20 years before Jesus’ birth, Rome had changed from a republic to an empire. Octavian had assumed power after vanquishing his rivals. He took for himself the name “Caesar Augustus.” After naming himself emperor, he was besieged by civil wars and insurrections. The military presence throughout the empire was strengthened. Even in forsaken places like Palestine, the imprint of Rome was heavy. It is no wonder the people longed for deliverance. They looked for a Messiah. They were seeking hope in desperate times. People do the same today. Many of the residents of Palestine didn’t understand and missed the miracle. The angels clearly announced it. “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11 KJV). They were looking for something different and missed what God sent them. What about us? Our hope today is not found in political leaders or institutions. It will be in the Babe of Bethlehem.
Jesus is the only way to genuine peace. How many of us long for a time when all hatred, rage and division will cease? That won’t happen through a negotiated settlement. It won’t take place because of a military conquest. It will only happen through a relationship with and a connection to Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The Apostle Paul wrote about the peace of God that comes through Jesus. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Jesus spoke of the peace he offers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). For us, the way to peace is through Jesus.
What is needed, maybe more than anything else right now, is a story of Christmas. It is my prayer that all of us revisit that wonderful story that begins, “And it came to pass in those days.”