Early and mid-December generally finds us in full anticipation mode. Christmas is coming! We purchase gifts, decorate our homes, plan special meals, and prepare for parties. ‘Tis the season to be merry and bright….
And then, if and when we dare, we look at the news. Wars and rumors of wars. Displaced migrants. Human trafficking. Natural disasters: earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, hurricanes and tornadoes. Suffering of unimaginable depth and endless duration.
Christmas seems incongruous in our world today. It can feel inappropriate and even callous to celebrate Christmas in light of the suffering in today’s world. But I believe that that is exactly the point of Christmas, and precisely why it is so important to celebrate.
Jesus was born more than 2000 years ago. Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire, known for its authoritarian government which relied on brute strength and cruelty to maintain peace. It was a dark time of fear and suffering.
Madeline L’Engle writes these words as part of a poem celebrating the Incarnation:
This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate….
That was no time for a child to be born
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
And yet the Bible tells us that Jesus was born as God Incarnate “in the fullness of time.” During a time of brutality, hardship, and suffering, the glory of God shined down from heaven, and a host of angels celebrated in giving glory to God. God became Incarnate man and dwelt among men. Sin and suffering did not evaporate: Jesus lived and breathed in the trenches and in the wreckage caused by the fall.
And so, some 2000 years later, we mark the greatest event in human history. And by all appearances, mankind has not made much progress in the centuries between then and now. Suffering continues. Many people live in hopelessness and desperation. We are reminded, again, of our need for the Messiah.
The Messiah has come, and He is coming again! This is worth celebrating! We are called to manifest Christ, to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with our God. Marking the Incarnation and anticipating Christ’s return represents the sure foundation upon which we can fulfill that calling. A wholehearted Christmas celebration is exactly what this world needs. May the light of Christ—and our celebration of His birth—shine in the darkness….