My thoughts are with those who are having a hard time finding the joy of Christmas. It has been a challenging year for all of us with isolation, economic challenges, health issues, maybe even sadness and loneliness. And maybe your prospects of 2021 are not hopeful at this point. So, it’s hard to get into carols, candies, colored-lights and shopping.
People have said this year is “unprecedented.” I suppose everyone has their definition of what that means, but, in many ways, our little world, (defined by our small bubbles) maybe has a lot of similarities as the world Jesus, God’s one and only son, was born into.
A fellow pastor from Germany, Cris Zimmerman, wrote: “When we take a hard look, this story (Birth of Christ) it is so completely different than our romanticized, feel-good party. In this first century Christmas scene, there was fear, worry, persecution, rejection, and uncertainty about the future; this did not prevent the angels and the heavenly rulers from making the trumpet resound and shout, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men of his good pleasure.” (Luke 2:14).
Joseph and Mary were not wealthy by any means. He was a carpenter, but all indications were that they were considered hard-working and poor and quite possibly homeless for a time.
Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger or feeding trough for animals. He was born in very humble means. Being the son of God, as well as our creator, the world did not give him much of a welcome. The Gospel of John tells us, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” Rejection by those you have given so much to and have loved them so much, is hard and heart-breaking.
The people of that day were people just like us. They needed hope. They were people who needed to know that God had not forgotten them that God lov their land and making life miserable, there was Someone they could turn to in their time of need.
There is a lot of chaos and struggles in our nation, in our world today. There is a lot of suffering. And we ask God “Why?” and “What are you going to do about it?” God sent his son to give us hope and salvation. He sent his son to show us how much He loves us. He sent his son to deal with a sin problem that makes our life miserable and robs us of a hope and a future. He came to be the way, the truth and the life for us that, even in hard times, we may find deep hope, peace and even joy.
We have hope of a vaccine on the horizon that we hope will bring an end to this pandemic and all the hardship it has caused. But our hope cannot just be in a vaccine to end this disease. We need a hope that goes beyond that! What will we do when the next thing comes along?
The angels brought a message from Heaven to shepherds watching sheep in the hills just outside of Bethlehem. While watching their flocks at night, an angel of the Lord appeared to them. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
The fact that they were receiving this message really did mean that Jesus was born for “all people.” He was God’s gift of love for everyone. He was God in the flesh, born as a baby, to be our “Emmanuel, God with us.” But not only God with us, but “God in us.” He wants to be in our lives as the way, the truth, and the life. It is an invitation to share in all the goodness of God for here and for eternity.
The angels gave the shepherds an invitation to be the first to welcome God’s son into the world. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” “Here’s how you can find Him. Go, say ‘Hello’ and witness the hope of the world lying in that manger.” Then the Bible tells us they experienced a phenomenal event. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Taken from Luke 2)
It is a beautiful story of something that happened long ago and continues to happen as God comes to each of us to offer his hope and salvation. True Christmas is so much more than carols, candy, colored-lights, and shopping. It is a message to you that you are loved and that there is hope in Jesus. I pray you have a blessed Christmas knowing how much Jesus loves you.
• The Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene.