I think sometimes we forget the Good News of Christmas.
I will admit, with a toddler at home, it’s been much easier to let the magic of Christmas seep back into my life. The joy and glee on her face when she decorates Christmas cookies, opens a present, looks at our Christmas tree (every morning for over a week after we put it up, she’d wake up, run into the living room, and shout, “MOMMY!! WE HAVE A CHRISTMAS TREE!!”), and sees Santa Claus…it’s just the kind of joy you can’t find anywhere else. To watch a child discover the traditions and magic of Christmas for the first time is heartwarming.
It’s also heartwarming for me to be re-telling the story of Jesus’ birth to her. I read it every year; it’s one I know by heart. I have heard it every year since I was born. But something in the story has changed as I try really hard to break it down into a story she understands. Or rather, something in me has changed.
In the process, I’ve begun to understand it a little better myself. I think this year more than any other for those who are around my age, we feel we need Good News more than ever. The shootings in Connecticut a week ago have really sobered this season for me and have forced me to ask myself, “What IS the good news? Is it really good news for us, even now?”
My answer is yes. A thousand times yes. While sometimes we feel God has left us, has turned his back and left us to our own devices, has let death and destruction win time and time again, I ask you to consider that maybe God is as close as He ever was. Because maybe He’s the only one who truly understands the chaos and mess of a world we live in.
Jesus came into this world at night, into the darkness. Herod sought the life of the child before he was even born. The wretchedness of the Roman Empire was at its peak. In the words of Russell Moore:
“Jesus was not born into a gauzy, sentimental winter wonderland of sweetly-singing angels and cute reindeer nuzzling one another at the side of his manger. He was born into a war-zone. And at the very rumor of his coming, Herod vowed to see him dead, right along with thousands of his brothers.”
The people then may have all but given up on a Savior. If there ever was a people and time that cried out for a Savior, this could have been a point when it was loudest. But the very fact that this was the corner God sent His son into tells me there is no length He won’t go to in order to reach us. Our Savior is familiar with the darkness.
It’s Good News because He gives tools. He gives us the capacity to love, forgive, heal, and hope. Because of Jesus, I can live in this chaotic world, in which nothing is guaranteed, with peace. Peace that transcends the world and my circumstances.
It’s Good News because He never leaves us. He has never, ever left us. If a day should come where the world crumbles hopelessly beneath my feet and I am grasping for a foothold, He will be there to catch me and keep my world from spinning. He makes sense out of the insanity. Even tragedy, trials, and loss find their purpose in God’s story. He provides that big picture we so desperately need sometimes. This is not our home. Praise God, this is not our home.
And Lord knows the world needs to see people who live with a transcendent peace in a world of chaos, as our pastor put so well a few weeks ago.
As I re-tell the story of Jesus to Heidi, I find myself saying simple truths I myself have forgotten. God wanted to rescue us. God wants us to love others, ALL others. Jesus provides a way for us to have peace. We celebrate His birthday because He is so special to us. God wanted to be with us.
And He is with us…today and forever. Whether it’s a joyful Christmas for you this year, or a heartbroken one….it’s Good News. Emmauel….God with us. I am never without purpose, never without hope, never forgotten. Not one of us. What a joy. What a relief.
Praise the Lord, that is some Good News.
Darkness transfigures into light, grief transfigures into grace, empty transfigures into full. God wastes nothing – but ‘makes everything work out… ‘. (Eph. 1:11)
2 In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. 2 It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be listed. 4 So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. 5 He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. 6 While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born.7 She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn.8 There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. 12 Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said, 14 “May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!”~Luke 2
“I would kneel at the manger. I would kneel there and wonder at this God. This God who shows up in the stench of a barn. If God avoided red carpets and opted instead to enter the black stable, is there anywhere the hallowed presence of God won’t appear? If the blinding holiness of God breaks into this world with the cry of a child wrapped in filthy cloths, lying in a dung heap — then couldn’t God reveal Himself anywhere? And I’d kneel there at the reenacted Bethlehem and finger along it on the wooden grain of a manger trough— The God who needs nothing, came needy. The God who came to give us mercy, was at our mercy. God meets us not so much in the lovely — but in the unlikely.” ~Ann Voskamp