Can we really say ‘Happy Christmas’ this year? These are dark times. At the first Christmas Jesus stepped into a dark and hurting world. He came to live with us, right in our mess, offering hope. One of the names used for Jesus is Immanuel or ‘God with us’ – we are not alone.
The baby in the manger is a mind blowing paradox – God becoming man, accepting human limitations (Jesus got hungry, thirsty and tired). He knows how difficult it is to live in this world. He isn’t a distant God demanding the impossible from us – that we sort ourselves out, clean ourselves up morally, somehow make ourselves good enough for heaven. He knows that we can’t do that.
He came to offer peace with God to anyone who would accept it, irrespective of race, gender or background, promising: “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37).
Brightly coloured Christmas lights bring encouragement to dark winter days & suggest the hope of brighter days to come. For Christians they also point to the hope offered by Jesus, that his light has overcome the darkness, that he has secured a place for us with him in Heaven not because of any good in us but because he paid for all our wrongdoing on the cross. There is no sin that his sacrifice cannot cover, except the sin of continuing to reject God.
This year more than ever people are weary, burdened, needing hope. The message of Christmas is needed more than ever. Jesus promised, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28).
So I say “Happy Christmas” not because these times are necessarily happy but because the truth of Christmas is unchanged by these dark times. Today we give presents to show people that they matter, to offer a bit of fun and hope in the dark winter.
Jesus came to show how much all people matter to God, to offer hope to everyone – peace with God both in this life and the next to all who turn to him. That unimaginable gift was the original Christmas present and it is offered to everyone: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’(John 3:16).
Even Christians can get so used to the sheer busyness (and indeed business) of Christmas that we fail to grasp the enormity of forgiveness and peace with God.
Jesus set aside all the power of Heaven, came to live among us, to not just teach us about God but to show us who God is.
But he also came to die, to take the punishment for our wrongdoing. He was resurrected as he had promised, to show that he really is who he says he is and that he can give the life he promised to those who trust in him.
The whole world seems to be hurting at the moment. It’s a good time to remember how frail we are. Jesus came to offer rescue / salvation to anyone who would accept it. He went out of his way to include the neglected, the marginalised, the rejected.
In this tumultuously difficult year, where everyone feels caught in the dark storm of COVID-19 and its aftermath, we need this message more than ever.
Christmas is hard this year but the truth remains: God with us, a saviour born for all who will come to trust in him.
So I say “Happy Christmas”! I wish you a happy and peaceful time.