This is Christmas week. There is an excitement and an anticipation. Strangers greet each other cheerily. Family travels great distances to be together. Lights glitter from windows. Good smells emanate from the kitchen. Children cannot sleep. Mothers are exhausted. And fathers wonder how to pay for it all.
Yes, this is Christmas week. Maybe there is no anticipation or excitement at your house. Yes, strangers greet you cheerily as you do your best to ignore them and grumble “bah humbug”! You dread the family coming in – they are more than difficult. Yes, lights glitter but not from your heart. There is no money to buy extra this year. Your children will be disappointed and your heart is heavy.
Or maybe you are just angry.
The world is in a mess. There are two families in New York grieving the loss of their heroes. There is a family in Tennessee grieving the suicide of their husband and father. The lights, anticipation, cheery greetings, good food do not change those things. It is supposed to be “peace on earth, good will toward men”; but it is far from that. Sabers rattle in North Korea and the world quakes. Swords are drawn in Syria and the West wrings its’ hands. Disease spreads on the African continent.
So what good is Christmas? In light of the suffering, misery, hurt, questions….what good is Christmas?
When Christ was born the world was in a mess. Israel was occupied by the iron rule of Roman. A census was imposed that upset every household as they had to go register in their hometown. Everything was in turmoil. The future was determined by a foreign power that was cruel and levied unfair, heavy taxes. Money was hard to come by. Life was hard unless you were a member of the powerful elite. Even the religious leaders were harsh – without grace and love – imposing their own rigid interpretations.
Where was God? There had been no prophet for over 400 years. Many had given up on God. Had God forgotten them? There was little hope. There was little comfort.
Yet there was a small group – a “remnant” – that still believed the prophet’s words foretelling a savior’s birth. They faithfully worshipped at the Temple in Jerusalem. They held onto faith against all odds. It was into this messy world, God stepped. A very unlikely event.
The Mighty Creator – the One who holds time in His hands, stepped into time. The very One who created Mary inhabited her womb. Amazing!
The holy, powerful God of the universe came to inhabit our messy world for one reason: He loves us. He loves you! Personally.
Imagine, if you will, one day the Godhead in Heaven were discussing mankind. (God never has a dilemma but for the sake of this thought, God had a dilemma.) What was He going to do with those rebellious humans? His heart ached with love for them – even in their mess – but they had rejected Him over and over. Every attempt to reach them through the prophets was rebuffed. How could He make them understand His great love? How could He redeem them?
The Godhead decided He would visit humans Himself! It was a scandalous thought in Heaven as it echoed down the vast corridors of time and space. But God had a plan… He would visit earth by being born a baby. Helpless. Dependent. Vulnerable. Non-threatening.
The angels said “I bring good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.”
I do not think there is any way we can comprehend what that meant to those who heard the message. It had been so long in coming. So anticipated. So prayed for…And now, at last…
Yet it was not as they expected. Not a warrior to rid them of Roman domination. Not a glorious spectacle. Just a baby…in a manger…in the small town of Bethlehem…unnoticed by so many. No fanfare.
Would God show up like this?
Only a few recognized Him. Shepherds – the lowest of society. Kings form the East – foreigners. And very old man and a very 0ld woman in the Temple.
Such an encouragement to us! He came to the sinners, the marginalized, the outcasts, the lowly. He came to the old and weak. He came to those who weren’t looking – He surprised them. He came to those who simply would not see. But He came and comes still.
What good is Christmas? It brings hope to those of us who are outcasts, who have blown it. He comes to those of us who are older and feel useless or marginalized. He comes to those of us who have not been looking or seeking – He just comes! And He comes with the invitation to simply come to Him as you are.
That’s the reason for Christmas. Even in the midst of our suffering misery, doubt, questions, hurt, anger…we are not alone and we are invited into a personal relationship with the God of the Universe Who loves us desperately. So much so that He stepped out of Heaven into a stable in Bethlehem to live with us for 33 years. So He could redeem us for Himself.
If you don’t believe me…read the Gospel of John for yourself this Christmas. It is the 4th book in the New Testament. I invite you to discover God’s personal love for you. Hare His invitation to, “Come”.
Well…the house is decorated. The cookies baked. The presents bought – and most already wrapped. Others mailed out. I remember when I treated wrapping as an art form – each was decorated to perfection – almost like Martha Stewart. Gone are those days…to much time and too much money. Now I find a bag at the Dollar Store and make do! Better yet, I reuse some from last year!
I did try to bake bread for my neighbors next door…they turned out like bricks! You could build a wall with them! I clearly did something wrong!
All part of Christmas…
But in the midst of that I was reading 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. It says, “May our (“who?”) Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, (why?) who loved us and by his grace gave us (what?) eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
That is a wonderful Christmas gift. It’ll last all season and into the New Year!
Have you ever felt dull? Tired? Like the color gray?
Just no joy in living. No spark of excitement. Everyone on FaceBook seems to have the joy and energy for the season- but you. With the holidays coming on you are supposed to be excited about family,shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping, parties…no end to the things you have to “look forward to”. But you aren’t. You are dreading it.
Add the fact that it is such an important spiritual occasion…now you feel guilty because you shouldn’t feel this way.
You want it to be January 1st not December 1st.Well it’s not. You just have to deal with it.
Maybe you take on too much and do what you think you are “supposed” to do – keeping up with neighbors and friends. Meeting expectations of friends and family. No. It’s OK not to keep up. Set limits on what you can realistically do and let the rest slide. I know I say it every year…and still get caught up in all the hype to “do and be”.
But that’s not really what Christmas is all about. This year I am going to eliminate one thing – just one. And when I do eliminate it, I want to use the time and energy I spent on that one thing to think about Jesus’ birthday. The song is “Silent Night, Holy Night” – not “Jingle Bell Rock”. I need some silence and quiet in my life. Jesus did too – He took time out to be alone and pray.
There is a radio station near me that has been playing solid Christmas music for a couple of weeks. I listen to it in the car – there has not been one Christmas Carol or hymn – at least while I am listening. Yesterday the announcer said he was going to play a Christmas hymn. I got excited and then heard Bing Crosby singing, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”! That is NOT a Christmas hymn!
Maybe our secular culture with it’s chaos and cacophony has so eroded the true meaning of Christmas that we can no longer find the joy in it. I refuse to let it.
The greatest joy of all mankind, of all history is the reason for Christmas. I am not going to let it be stolen.