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”.