Last year, as we entered the busy ten days before Christmas, I recorded what our family calendar included: 2 choir concerts, 1 church rehearsal & program, 2 parties, 3 dance rehearsals, 2 days of dance recitals, not to mention the activities of normal daily life (teaching, cleaning, shopping, etc.). In talking with others, this seems to be the norm, not the exception. December has become such a busy time for most people that it seems to have become impossible to focus on what is truly important and why we celebrate Christmas. It often becomes so busy, noisy, and stressful that the beauty of what we celebrate goes unnoticed. So, fix yourself a cup of tea and join me for a few minutes as we contemplate the true meaning of Christmas.
Do you ever look at others and think, “Well, sure, they can feel all those Christmasy things like peace and joy, but they don’t have MY life. I don’t have time to breathe, let alone contemplate the deep meaning of Christmas!” Or, “My life feels so hopeless right now, how could I possibly feel joy or peace?” If you are feeling any of these things this year, then I’m here to tell you that Christmas is for you.
Think about the Jews living in Jerusalem or Bethlehem 2000 years ago. They were living under Roman rule, subject to unjust laws and taxes and oppression. They were desperately looking for a Messiah to come and rescue them. They were also living in a period of silence. It had been 400 years since a prophet had spoken to them, telling them of a long-anticipated Saviour. Yet still they hoped, believing He would someday come and rescue them. They were expecting a king to come and save them from their misery and hopelessness. They held on to the words of their prophets and put their hope in a Messiah that they earnestly prayed would come soon.
Then one night, a tiny baby is born in the city of Bethlehem, fulfilling all those prophecies of long ago. Into the midst of their darkness came a bright light, keeping God’s promise to His people. Although their Messiah did not come in the way they thought he should (as a conquering king), God fulfilled all their hopes through this baby who would grow up to die on a cross for their sins, bringing them the hope of forgiveness and eternal life.
This baby not only brought the people hope, but joy. In Luke chapter 1, an angel comes to a young woman named Mary, telling her that she will bear a child, conceived by the Holy Spirit. She is an unmarried woman, betrothed to a man named Joseph. In those times, unmarried women who became pregnant were subject to being stoned to death for their sin. How do you think Mary felt? She had to have been incredibly frightened! She was very young, yet she responded with incredible faith and trust in her God, replying with some of the most beautiful words in Scripture, “I am the Lord's servant.” When she visits her relative, Elizabeth, the baby Elizabeth is carrying leaps for joy in her womb at the presence of his Saviour. Mary responds with an amazing song of praise and trust (Luke 1). Now, I don’t know about you, but I would probably not have responded in this way to the news that I was to bear a child, though a virgin! I think I would have been overcome with anxiety over what my people would do to me or think of me. Yet through all this, God gives Mary peace.
This Christmas, do you need joy, or hope, or peace? The good news is this: Jesus came not only to bring these things to the Jews of long ago, but to you today, in whatever circumstances you are facing. He came to earth as an infant, giving up his rightful place in heaven with His father to come just for YOU. He wants you to come to His stable this Christmas and find him, worship Him and let him give you HOPE of a future in heaven with him. He wants to take your burdens and give you peace in exchange, the kind of peace that makes no sense to us, but is very real indeed. He wants to bring you joy in the midst of difficult circumstances, joy in knowing that you belong to Him and that He loves you beyond measure and that He is coming back to take you home with Him. He wants you to celebrate this Advent season by looking not only to the past and His coming to a stable in Bethlehem, but also to the future, and to long for His coming back and to pray for His return. This year, Christmas is for you.
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