Christmas Day gives us a break from normal life. Maybe you associate it with family, food and presents. The darker and heavier realities of normal life can be left for at least one day. Enjoy another mince pie, watch some festive broadcast, and tip your hat to the ancient Christmas story. Even that story offers a pleasant counterpoint to everyday burdens. There is a young couple, some shepherds, a few travelling wise men, and at the centre, the baby who brings hope into the world. Christmas tidings of joy and peace fits nicely with our shared good wishes, even if it is a little quaint.
What if Christmas in 2020 needs something more? The darkness does feel more pressing this year, doesn’t it? We have the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political turmoil, racial tensions – it is a dark, dark world. So do we jettison the quaint tales of the first Christmas and try to muster some hope from inside ourselves that can steel us for the year ahead? Or do we look more closely at Jesus and see if he really does bring the light of genuine hope into our dark world?
Here are four reasons that the birth of Jesus can give us a hope bright enough to counter the darkness of 2020.
1. Because he reveals God. When Jesus became one of us and was born in Bethlehem, he came to show us something important. It wasn’t just a good example to copy, or some helpful tips for living life. Jesus came to show us God. We cannot accurately guess what God is like, so God came to us all wrapped up in humanity. When we consider Jesus, we get a unique glimpse into the very character of God. If God is a distant killjoy, or a well-meaning but impotent figure, then we are very much alone. But if God is like Jesus, then maybe there is hope for us. Jesus came into this world on a mission of hope, and it was a mission of revelation.
2. Because in Jesus, God identifies with us. When Jesus joined humanity at Bethlehem, he was deliberately identifying with us. He chose poor and insignificant parents, humble surroundings, and the darkest of times. He came to experience life with all its challenges, uncertainties and disappointments. He knows what it is like to live in a world wracked with disease, political turmoil, racial tension, and economic hardship. One result of that identification, according to the Bible, is that Jesus is now able to understand and sympathise with us – he prays for us continually as we experience the new (to us) challenges of 2020 and 2021. Jesus came into this world on a mission of hope, and it was a mission of identification.
3. Because he came to give us true hope. When Jesus came into the world, it was not just a thirty-three excursion into humanity. He didn’t drop in only to shift into reverse and back out some time later. Jesus is fully God and fully man – fully one … and that is forever! Jesus did not become human temporarily. That massively increases the offer of hope. Why? Because we have someone who wants to, and is able to, bring us into the relationship we need to fully experience life and love as God intended. He didn’t come to hand over a ticket to heaven and then pull back. He came to give us himself in marriage. God’s great plan is for the ultimate and perfect marriage union of a rescued humanity with the only one who could rescue us: our creator. Jesus came into this world on a mission of hope, and it was a mission to create a marriage union.
These first three points speak of three great unions – the wonderful core of the Christian message. The first union is the beautiful relationship of God with God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in their glorious union, are a wonderfully different God than every other god we have ever imagined. At the heart and at the start of everything there is a loving relationship. Amazingly, we are invited to join! The second union is what happened that first Christmas: God and humanity joined together in the person of Jesus. This makes possible the third union: God united to a rescued humanity by inviting us to become one with Jesus. In union with Jesus we discover forgiveness, life, love, joy, peace, and real, powerful, life-changing hope.
4. Because Jesus came to enter and shatter the darkness. All that I have described so far is a mission that was launched that first Christmas, and confirmed some years later on that first Easter. Jesus came into this dark world and went to the darkest place: his death on the cross. He chose to enter the darkness of human sin and separation from God, in order to shatter the darkness. In its place Jesus offers the warming sunlight of God’s love to any who will accept that his life and death was intended for me. Jesus came into this world on a mission of hope, a mission to rescue you from the darkness.
Don’t just grit your teeth and press on into 2021. Discover the real hope that can only be found in relationship with Jesus.