This time of year means different things for many people. Rightly so, traditions and superstitions abound and have converged over the years to bring us a whirlwind of ideas about what Christmas is. People make it what they want it to be and that is their right. The traditions are vast and they vary carrying with them a rich mosaic of colour, music, food, story, and practices.
Christmas comes rushing for many and carries a heavy sense of dread. It can be a difficult time of expectations pushing up against economic limitations and guilt. For many, commercialism runs rough shod over the season and people are left with the feeling of being pawns in some corporate game whose goal is to create unfulfillable desire. It leaves many with an empty feeling and too much stuff.
Christmas is a painful time for far too many people. It opens wounds of loves lost, expectations unmet, and ushers in anxiety in ample measure. Family systems are broken and people are brought together by obligation in the full force of their dysfunction. Many a Christmas dinners become yelling matches and battlegrounds where words serve as bullets to rip open old wounds and create new ones. For those who suffer in this vein, waiting for it to pass is the hope that floats them.
… But Christmas is good news for all people. Why you might ask?
Christmas is about welcoming a baby into our broken world that became King. In the midst of everyone's calamity and the anxiety of ultimate death that befalls every human being, a baby was born to do special things. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
This is no myth. This is a physical and undeniable moment in space and time when something remarkable happened. In speaking of this baby as a rose, an old hymn tells it to us like this…
Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.
From the story of the ancient people Israel, came the promise of God to come and deal with the brokenness that enshrouds the entire world. This brokenness is a result of humankind's rebellion toward God. God's way of dealing with the predicament was to send himself, in full vulnerability of a babe, to inaugurate God's kingdom and save the world from sin. He does this in love and not force or violence. For love is the hallmark of this King's kingdom.
The great news about Christmas is that the God who made us forgives us and loves us. God wants to restore and refurbish all things. He is making the whole earth new (including us) and invites us to follow him in that great task as co- creators and conspirators. God promises that anyone who partakes of this journey will never regret it but experience life to the full. That is not to say we will be free from suffering, but that the God who loves is familiar with suffering, having suffered himself, and is now present for us through it. God transforms even the greatest of tragedies into part of our ultimate healing. Take comfort in this.
So whichever story you find yourself in, whether it is marked by pain or a joyful time with family, my hope is at you will get a glimpse of the light that is shining in the darkness and come to understand how good the news of Jesus is.
From my family to yours….May you experience the fullest measure of God's love, joy, and peace this Christmas.