Christmas can be a very emotional time, for better or for worse. The emphasis on family can lead to celebration but also grief. Not everyone has a happy marriage, lovely children and twinkly lights. We miss those who have died. The hidden pressure to provide a ‘special Christmas’ for the kids can put families under enormous financial and psychological strain. Some people are simply alone, or at least, feel very alone at Christmas time. Here in New Zealand it’s also our summer holiday time where many workplaces shut down for two weeks. This can lead to a huge void for many. Those with alcohol or food addictions have to battle weeks of office parties and other get-togethers. Some people even learn that they’ve been laid off and told to not come back to work in the new year. Christmas doesn’t remove the hardness from life. It magnifies it, just as it magnifies the aspects of life worth celebrating.
What, then, is the real joy of Christmas? John 1:14 sums it up for me.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God said YES to us. That’s what it comes down to. He chose to close the chasm that had opened up between us and him when we chose to run away from home. Jesus came to rescue us and take us back to the Father and he did it by stepping into the chaotic mess of humanity as one of us.
Jesus was born to an unwed teenager from a small town with a bad reputation. Together, their reputation in the family was such that no guest room was made available for them and so Jesus was placed in a manger, a feeding trough for the family animals. Some time later they had to flee to Egypt as Herod carried out his threat to kill the infant boys of Bethlehem. Jesus then grew up as the son of a landless artisan, without money, power or reputation. The Word became flesh and embraced all of our stories of suffering and pain. He embraced the refugees, the rejects, the poor, the powerless and the broken. His baptism among the rabble showed that he embraced us all and “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
The prodigal son came to his senses in the middle of the pig sty. This is where Jesus comes for us. In the midst of messy humanity is where we find Jesus. He’s there among the lonely, the grief-stricken, the sad and the desperate. He’s there among the smiles, the laughter, the play and the popped corks. He comes with an invitation for us all – let my Father and I make our home in you. That is amazing! He doesn’t come to take us out of this world to be home with him. He comes into our world to be at home with us. This world is his Father’s estate. He comes to claim it back one heart at a time.
This Christmas, no matter what your situation is, you stand before God loved, accepted and welcomed into his life and heart. Jesus has done this for you. I pray that you will feel his delight and his joy this season. He has said YES to you and to us all.
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.