The last two years have been difficult for our world, and depressing for many people personally. With Christmas again threatened by Covid, it would be easy to be distracted from the real message of Christmas.
And it is this: Christmas means hope. God's offer of friendship is not merely a consolation in the face of evil and suffering. It is more than God's understanding of what it is to be human (as great as it is that God has walked in our shoes, lived our life, and identifies with our struggles). More than a "there, there" in the midst of our pain. It is the sure hope of a self and a world that will be transformed. It is the personal and cosmic hope that good will at last triumph over evil. It is the hope that the darkness which we find in our own hearts will be permanently overcome by light – that we become “our true selves.” It is the hope that the darkness we see in the world around us will be transformed by the light of Jesus. As John puts it:
5 [Jesus’] life is the light that shines through the darkness--and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5
The darkness, the powers of evil, tried to put out that light from the beginning. Herod, fearing a threat to his kingship, had all the babies in Bethlehem slaughtered. But Mary and Joseph fled with the baby Jesus to Egypt and were kept safe. Throughout Jesus' ministry, the Jewish religious leaders were threatened in their authority by this popular man who claimed to be God, and who did not fit their expectations of a Messiah. So they colluded with the invading Romans and had him killed as a criminal, though he had done no wrong. But he rose from death three days later.
The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out. John 1:5
Christmas shows us that God was not only willing, but able to do something about our situation of alienation from him and from each other. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus show us God's intentions for our future. When Jesus raised people from the dead, and when he healed others, he pointed to a future for us with no death, no sickness, no suffering. When he lived a life of love he pointed to a future of harmony between people. And when he became a human being and lived among us, he pointed to a future where the dwelling of God is with people completely.
If we are his, that future is ours. Christmas is a reminder that God knows what it is like to be human; that God offers us his friendship here and now, and that God offers us a hope-filled future with him.
Christmas means God is with us, for us.
That is why we can have hope, that is why we can celebrate!
© 2021 Ian Duncum. All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.
Rev Dr Ian Duncum is a trained and accredited (with John Mark Ministries) church consultant with 20 years experience of working with non-profit enterprises and churches across a number of denominations. This has also included denominational leadership in church health and development and church research in the tertiary education sector. An accredited minister with a track record of growing churches, Ian also trains church consultants, facilitates training for ministers and leaders, and mentors/supervises pastors and other leaders. He can be contacted at www.ianduncum.com.au or firstname.lastname@example.org