“Is Christmas ruined?” She asked it of me hoping for reassurance that despite the tensions in the air and the tears streaming in the wake of relational heartaches, despite the upheaval of a house up for sale and an impending move, despite the sadness of moving away from all that’s familiar and loved… despite all this, Christmas will go on.
Dropping into all the relational stresses, the loneliness, the ‘sad’ of being dislodged from home at Christmas time, comes the reality of what Christmas is all about. It shines all the brighter against the backdrop of our messy world.
Perhaps the things we equate with Christmas do more to obscure its meaning than to point us to it. We love the nostalgia of Christmases past, the cozy fireside (minus chestnuts roasting!), the aroma of baking gingerbread, the perfection of iced sugar cookies, the tinsel sparkling on the tree, the lights glowing, the music playing. But the stable of Bethlehem had none of these. Nor did the cold lonely hillside where the shepherds eked out an existence with no hope of a change in their circumstances, ever. Just this, day after day, night after night. Tending sheep, a thankless job, a weary existence…
And then the glory of God came bursting in to their night skies. Isn’t that the way it is? We’re stuck in darkness apart from God revealing Himself to us, giving us ears to hear the good news, jolting us from our mundane marking of time to live in hope. This is the glory of Christmas. The world was still dark when the angels went away. The shepherds would return again from the stable to their hillsides. The baby’s diapers would need to be changed. Mary and Joseph were still homeless for a while…But there was hope. A Saviour had been born. God’s plan to redeem us all was showcased in that manger. Hope was rekindled. God has not left us to our make our way alone.
That’s why no matter how bleak the season of life we are in may seem, no matter how disappointing, crushing, lonely, or disjoint life has become…Christmas is not ruined. Its glory is only enhanced when our props vanish and the backdrop is dark. A light has shone on those who walk in darkness. A hope has been born to those who wake hopeless. For family members with unsalved hurts, for the lonely, the lost, the helpless, the dying—a Saviour has been born.
His name is Wonderful Counselor—the answer to those impossible situations that strain us to the breaking point. Mighty God—the very intervention we can’t live without. Everlasting Father—loving and protecting, aware of our needs, never absentee, unfailing forever. Who doesn’t long for such a Father? And He is the Prince of Peace. Peace with God is our soul’s native cry. Jesus was born to pave the way. No turmoil can eclipse this kind of peace. What more do we need than in Him is found? A Saviour has been born to us; He is Christ the Lord. He is the Great I AM in answer to all we are not.
Is Christmas ruined when our own worlds stand in disarray? Never.
God’s glory has shone around inviting us to the manger—to behold His Son, ‘born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law’. He invites us to believe the promise of blessing given to Abraham long years ago. “I will bless you… and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen.12:2,3) God’s heart is to bless mankind, His creation. How few believe it.
He longs to free us from the sin that makes slaves of us all. He longs for us to know the freedom of the sons of God, to be liberated from our efforts to do enough good to earn peace with Him. Peace doesn’t come that way; it never has. The good tidings of Christmas, the ‘first noel’, is that God has given us Jesus to save us from our sins.
Christmas isn’t ruined by our imperfections, our failings, or even our want of joy. No, only if the Christ child was not really born is its meaning lost. Is peace on earth a seamless reality in all our gatherings with family and friends? Does Joy to the World imply an endless emotional high despite dark days and melancholy memories? No, but peace and joy are rights of sonship, given to all who worship the Son as their Saviour, who believe He has come for the likes of them. As we treasure Him and lay all our hopes at His feet new hope will be born. This Hope of the world will not disappoint. Instead He takes our shame and offers us the glory of God. This is the hope of Christmas.
If Jesus isn’t Saviour enough for me, if God’s good will depends on my good behavior, if my sin is too great or my heart too stubborn to be moved by His Spirit to repentance and faith…then maybe Christmas is ruined. But a light has shone and while it shines there is hope for us all.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:4,12
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good…Ps.103:2-5
Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. Ps.130:7
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. II Cor.3:18
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Cor.4:6