Come this time of year, every sermon, every blog post, every Christian radio station begin talking about the "real" meaning of Christmas, and I'm going to be one of them.
Peace, joy, love, three terms assimilated with Christmas. But when Jesus was born, people weren't experiencing peace. There world was a mess. It was filled with pious religious leaders, vicious political leaders, and a corrupt, legalistic system of life rooted in self-righteousness and money. Not a whole lot of joy either, they had nothing to really be joyful in, they were living under the rule of a king who was known for his brutality and willingness to do whatever it took to protect himself, even murdering all the boy babies in Bethlehem. The culture wasn't really known for their wonderful, loving nature either. I mean, how loving is it to send a woman in labor to a barn. Give her your own bed for Pete's sake, she's PREGNANT.
I've been rereading the "Christmas story" lately, and what I see is hope. It wasn't the addition to a great society to have Jesus born. It was the hope to see salvation from the depravity they had been stuck in. Salvation. Deliverance. Hope for a better life than what they had had. Jesus was the symbol from God that they weren't alone, when I bet many of them felt it. This meant God was coming. He hadn't forgotten them, and He was giving them someone to prove it.
Jesus' birth was a time to separate the boys from the men so to speak. More like the Believers from the Jews. Upon Jesus' birth people now had to decide whether they were going to jump from the faith that had become traditional, comfortable, and safe, to following a newborn who was only able to spit-up and cry. A lot of people didn't have the imagination to see beyond circumstance, and the faith to follow down a new path. But those who did, man it was beautiful.
People like the wise men, and the shepherds. The didn't confine God to a box of conventionality and were willing to let Him be God and not make sense of His plans. I bet it was a little easier when they had an angel of the Lord coming with some intense special effects to give them the low down. But still, they didn't have to follow the star. They left everything for a baby.
I wonder if people saw hope in Jesus' face. I wonder if upon seeing Him they just new. I bet they had to have. It was God incarnate. They were looking into the face of the God that had been hidden behind a curtain in a temple for 500 years. They hadn't experienced hope in a long time. It must have been a thrill, a heart-stirring, emotion-bringing, booty-shaking thrill to know that they weren't alone. God was here to save them and change everything. And He was going to do it through the unexpected.
I pray hope over this season, whether it be a season of joy, or a season of hurt, that you would closely know the hope of a God who doesn't give up, who empathizes and understands the depth of what you feel, but is not debilitated by it. Immanuel. God with us. God. With. You.
May we all experience the thrill of hope despite our circumstances. May we fall richly in love with the God who knows what we need most. May we never put God in a box and may we invite Him to use His imagination with us. May the hope of Christ inspire us to love greatly, and live honorably. May we believe in such a way that people want what we have. And may we never forget from where we came.
Keep seeking God.