Summary: The Christmas season is a difficult time for some to celebrate when they have suffered tragedy during the year. That first Christmas also had their share of tragedies.

Matthew 2:13-23

The First Melancholy Christmas

Introduction – I Heard the Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was filled with sorrow at the tragic death of his wife in a fire in 1861. The Civil War broke out that same year and it seemed this was an additional punishment. Two years later, Longfellow was again saddened to hear that his own son had been seriously wounded as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac.

Sitting down to his desk, one Christmas Day, he heard the church bells ringing. It was in this setting he wrote:

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.

At this Chirstmas time whether you are in sorrow or in joy you can know that God is not dead, nor does he sleep. He knows your every need and longs to comfort you and be that special friend you need. Seek Him this year instead of the outward manifestations of the season. He will give life real meaning and your heart real peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Death, illness, and personal losses occur often during the holiday season.

I. It was a time of Identity 2:13-15

Lost in the difficulties of life is the fact that trials reveal who we are. Trials, troubles, and tragedies allow us to grow in the grace of Jesus and discover our strength in Him.

A. Joseph – he was a man of integrity. God asked Him to live by faith in raising His Son. Joseph cared for Jesus because of his love for God.

B. Jesus – he was a child of royalty. This Christ-Child was in the care of one young couple, but also in the hands of a sovereign God. He was praised by the low in life (shepherds) as well as the mighty in life (wise men). Eventually, all will fall at His feet.

C. Herod – he was a man of animosity. This man hated anything that potentially threatened his throne. Three dead sons and many family members later, even this small child was a threat.

Ill - Valuable Toy Story 2 or San Diego Chicken Loses His Identity

Valuable Toy Story 2

In the movie, Toy Story 2, the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen once again bring to life the animated heroes Woody and Buzz Lightyear, two action-packed toys owned by a boy named Andy.

The movie begins as Andy prepares for a week at Cowboy Camp. But just before he leaves, Woody’s arm tears at the shoulder, so Andy leaves him behind. Feeling lonely and worthless, Woody wonders if he is nearing that time when a boy abandons his favorite toy for the next high-tech fad.

While pondering his worthlessness, Woody sees fellow toys being taken out to the family yard sale. Woody attempts to rescue his friend, but he is spotted by Al, a greedy toy collector. Al, recognizing Woody’s incomparable value as an antique, steals him and takes him to Al’s Toy Barn where he is met by a cowgirl named Jessie, who is ecstatic at his arrival.

Woody asks Jessie why anyone would make such a fuss over him. Jessie shows Woody a video. He watches in amazement as it dawns on him that the image on the TV screen is his own. He is the original Sheriff Woody, "the rootinest, tootinest sheriff in the West," and the star of a popular 1950’s TV show, "Woody’s Roundup."

Woody, boggling over his identity, looks around the room filled with lunch boxes, kids’ toys, record albums, even a yo-yo that bear his likeness. "Just look at all this," he exclaims.

Jessie responds, "Didn’t you know? You’re valuable property!"


San Diego Chicken Loses His Identity

You probably know Ted Giannoulas even if you’ve never heard his name. He has been the San Diego Chicken for 30 years. But Ted is getting older. At age 50, being the Chicken has been his life and his whole identity. His face is never photographed unless he is in costume. No one knows the real Ted. He has no family.

At first, he loved his alter ego. "I discovered an untapped personality in that suit," he said. "It was like, now I have freedom. Now I’m no longer Ted."

But there is a price to pay. Dave Raymond, who for years wore the costume of the Philly Phanatic, said, "[Giannoulas] was the first and the funniest, and I have nothing but respect for him. But if you’re not careful, you can lose yourself in that suit."

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