In our family album there is a photograph of a little elderly lady sitting in a rocking chair, her hair white and thin and pulled back into a bun. The scene is the front verandah of a small weatherboard cottage and gathered about her is the family. It could be any family; it could be any Christmas day. All standing there with knowing faces, all except the kids who stand with glowing faces. The older you are the more you know and the more you hide...
I am told that she is my great grandmother, although I never new her. I did know my grandmother. She was ninety-nine years old when she died. Her hair was white too, and do you know, she looked exactly the same as the lady in the photograph. Mind you, in the photograph my grandmother is much younger, standing upright with short black hair, holding the hands of two little girls, my mother and her sister. Every Christmas we gathered for the family photograph, and of course, my grandmother was seated on a chair in the middle. One day it could be me sitting in that chair, although we men seem to be out of the picture by that stage.
I can remember when she used to ride on the running board of dad's 39 Ford as we drove away form her home. She was once a baby in the arms of that lady in the photograph, but in the end, her skin was wrinkled and her eyes dimmed. Flesh of my flesh.
The folly of life is that we wither and die. What do you mean to me child of Bethlehem? Why do you come to me at this time to remind me of my mortality? Each Christmas I grow older and for some reason we must record it for posterity. Children are born and old ones pass away and fading photographs serve but to remind us of the quickening years. Was it not yesterday when I was the child with the glowing face?
"And they will call him Immanuel, - which means, 'God with us'" - God actually living with us, taking mortal flesh and residing with a simple Palestinian family. Could it be possible that he might come to our families this Christmas? Jesus with us. Why he could even be in the family photograph if we wanted him there - if we invited him. An unseen hand gently enfolding; a living presence denying the drift of time. "For God so loved the World that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."