This year has been an “interesting” one to say the least. Life has been difficult for many of us in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the hours are turning into days, which are turning into weeks, which are turning into months, it may seem like a long, dark, and dreary season of life; I want to encourage you today.
As the year winds down and Christmas season is upon us, I think it is important to reflect about this last year, its implications, and how it relates to the Christmas season. I also find it interesting that the vaccine (whether you are pro-vaccine or vaccine-hesitant/resistant is another issue for another day) has arrived in Canada this week – right in time for Christmas! For many of us it is the long-awaited gift to bring us out of the darkness and into the light. Interestingly, in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 4, it states:
12 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. 13 He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali,
beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River,
in Galilee where so many Gentiles live,
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light.
And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow,
a light has shined.”
17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Now I am in no way, shape, or form implying the “gift” of the vaccine comes close to the greatest gift ever given to us from Heaven (Jesus), but there is a similarity I would like to point out. The world was awaiting a saviour when He was born in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago – darkness and death had its grip on them. In our present day the world is seeking refuge in the midst of this global pandemic. Both scenarios show we can’t make it on our own, both situations show we are in need. As self-sufficient or smart as we may believe ourselves to be, we are flawed. A simple virus (in the scientific realm ranks on the lower end of complexity) is all it took to expose the cracks in our self-sufficiency. How self-sufficient am I really? Am I really capable of rescuing myself?
This Christmas will be unlike any other because of the pandemic; it will likely be very different from our prior Christmas experiences. This may come as a shock to you, but do you know of another Christmas which was very different? How about the very first one? Yes, you heard me right, the first Christmas wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops. Our culture may try to sell us a certain sentiment, but that’s not how it all started.
The first Christmas involved the Jewish people under the yoke of Roman rule, longing for the saviour of their people. The first Christmas was a time of heavy taxation and people traveling long distances to register in the right jurisdictions (no planes, trains, or automobiles back then). The first Christmas involved a young teenage girl, found to be pregnant before marrying her fiancé – very controversial in that time and culture. The first Christmas had no room at the inn so Jesus was born in today’s equivalent of a barn. Great hardship… but from that flowed the source of great joy.
Isaiah 9:6-7, written about Jesus about 700 years before he was born, and fulfilled that first Christmas.
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice
from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!
God initiated the great rescue mission that very first Christmas. Jesus was born in order to eventually go to the cross and die so that you and I could be put in right standing with God. Each and every one of us has broken God’s laws (lying, stealing, cheating, lusting, and the list goes on…) and for that each and every one of us deserves punishment (eternal separation from God). If someone has broken a law and wronged us, we would expect a good judge to justly punish the offender. So, then, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all deserve punishment from our ultimate judge, God. But on the cross Jesus took the punishment so I wouldn’t have to, so you wouldn’t have to. He went to die on the cross in my place, in your place. This is the good news of the gospel: we can be in right standing with God for eternity because of what Jesus did. Not only are we rescued from hell, but we receive the greatest gift of all, relationship with God.
Covid-19 has made life tough for us during this past year, but when compared to what God has done for us in Christ via the cross, it still pales in comparison. When seen through the eyes of the cross, every situation seems less troublesome. Now I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic and its consequences, there have been great costs. What I want to encourage you with is how great the news of the gospel is. When we really come to terms with, understand, and embrace the glory of the gospel, everything else loses its grip on our circumstances. The good news really is that good!
Rescue from Covid-19 is great, but what’s much greater is the rescue of our very selves. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Perhaps the more direct question to ask ourselves in this moment would be: What does it profit a man if he is escapes the corona-virus to live another day, yet still forfeits his soul for eternity?
At Christmas we celebrate the Incarnation, God coming to live among us as a man. God could have let us perish in our twisted and warped nature, but His love for us is so immense that Jesus was willing to take on the cloak of humanity and come on the great rescue mission.
The incarnation started the journey to the cross. He was born to die, so that you and I could live with Him for eternity. Let us reflect and thank Him this Christmas for what He has done.