But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” [Luke 2:10-12 NIV]
Christmas is drawing near, and I hope you can sense the excitement. You can feel the spirit of the season as families are drawing together, as we celebrate Christmas events and as we worship together in special services. It is a time of great joy, most significantly because of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birth was foretold thousands of years ago. It's a time to celebrate in the fulfillment of God’s promise to us, His creation, as we experience the hope, love, joy, and peace that embody this time of year. God came to us as a child to show how much He loves us and to offer us salvation for our sins.
Yet we realize that hope, love, joy, and peace may not be the predominant feelings we have at this time. We are still faced with the realities on our lives: grief, despair, relationship challenges, financial troubles. I am battling a case of pneumonia that wants to linger. Plus, there is the pure exhaustion of this time of year. We feel that we are not ready for Christmas. Schools just let out for break this week and many are behind in their plans.
Let us remember the very first Christmas. It is the story of a teenage girl, pregnant with a child and unmarried. It is the story of a young girl and her husband that when she found herself in labor was homeless. It is the story of a child born in a dirty animal stall. It is the story of a family of refugees who had to flee their homeland, fleeing from King Herod, so that their child would not be killed.
Yet in all these, God still comes to be with us. God relentlessly pursues us to comfort us, to redeem us, to save us, to pardon us, to give us hope, to grant us peace. He came to us as one of us to experience all the things we experience, the happy times, but even more importantly the painful times. Even if we feel darkness in our lives at this time, God’s love, and grace for us is not diminished by that darkness.
Mary was alone and afraid, but God was with her and exalted her. Joseph was disgraced, but God revealed to Joseph the wondrous purpose for his life. The shepherds were afraid, but God gave them comfort.
We may feel alone, but in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God is with us. The world is filled with darkness, but God sent the light of life to shine into the darkness. This is the true Joy of Christmas. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”