I among most of the world have been heartbroken with the recent tragedy in America. For a family and community to lose one precious child is heartbreaking enough; but here in one fell swoop, we hear of a murderous rampage which took the lives of so many. Here in Australia our newspapers, radio and television have been full of the stories. The internet also is full of stories of the tragedy of this event. A horrendous tragedy that brought out the heroic best in many who would no normally consider themselves nor would we consider them to be heroes.
It was only a few days earlier that our Australian media carried the story of a young student who died of anaphylaxis at school. And once again our eyes and minds were filled with the tragedy of a young life lost. What I have found sad in our media is that no one has been reporting that someone went on a rampage on the 14th of December in a Chinese School with a knife. An activity that caused the badly wounding of 22 students and 1 adult. According to the CBC news this has been the latest of a series of periodic rampages in preschools and kindergartens in which people have been hurt.
I have a online friend who lives in Syria. There is a so called freedom fighters tank out the front of his house. He has to walk past it and the freedom fighters to go to school. He is in a catch 22. He is told by the rebels that he must fight for them, or they will kill him. The other side of the coin is the government troops who are fighting against these rebels, and if he joins them, he will likely be killed by them. I hadn’t heard from him for about 6 weeks, and I had thought the worst, and was pleasantly relieved when he made contact with me only a few days ago.
We have Australian troops in Afghanistan. It’s likely that some will be killed, or be injured over this Christmas period. The same could be said for our US and other allies who are fighting there and elsewhere also. But, its not only our troops who have the possibility of being injured and killed. Those they are fighting are also someone else’s child. And the stupid thing is that publically they state they are fighting for peace. I have ministered to homeless men who have fought in wars. Men haunted by what they saw and did in the Sudan. Kill or be killed by boy soldiers.
But the reality is that our peace cannot be brought about through death and destruction. I am 45 years of age. A man in my own right. But, my mother still believes that I am her son. And no matter how old I grow, I will always be her son. And around the world, sons and daughters. Grandsons and granddaughters. Brothers and sisters. Nephews and nieces. Cousins, uncles, aunties, parents, grandparents will face death and destruction in the name of peace. And the reality is that this peace is no kind of peace at all. For it just causes unbelievable heartache.
But, there was a child born. A child who was born just the same as many others today. And his name is Jesus. While he was born 2000 years ago, he is and was the most important baby born in the world. For he was and still is, Immanuel which means God is with us. The prince of peace. For God so loved the world, he loved his creation so much that he was heartbroken to see his creation stained by sin. His creation hopeless in the grip of sin. For the result of sin in the world was death. And there could be no greater sin then those who are made in the image of God going about killing others who also are made in the image of God.
So God humbled himself and came to earth as a mere child. And within his short time on earth he came to reconcile all of humanity to himself. And this child grew up to be a young man. A man who showed us the way God wanted us to live with each other. A man who showed us the way to walk humbly with God. But, while he lived with us as a man, he was God himself incarnate. And eventually he faced a brutal torturous death himself – where he faced execution on the cross. But death could no hold him, and 3 days later he raised to life. And from that moment on, forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God and the gift of life, eternal life was proclaimed in his name.
In 9 days time, we celebrate Christmas. The origins of this celebration came about because of the Godchild. Jesus, Immanuel. The prince of peace was born. While for some there may be a dispute whether or not the 25th of December is the actual birthdate.. the issue is not about the date we celebrate – but just how are we going to respond to the message of life. The offer of forgiveness and reconciliation of all of humanity with the creator of the universe. And its this offer that can truly only bring about real lasting, eternal peace on earth, just as it is in heaven.
I’m increasingly finding myself dissatisfied with doctrine. Now don’t get me wrong. I do believe doctrine is important. For knowing ones doctrine means one knows what it is they believe. But I’m getting more and more dissatisfied with dogmatic doctrine. Systematic doctrine. Calvinism, Arminism, Catholacism, Orthodoxism, Lutherism, Methodism, Pentecostalism, Baptistism and all the other “isms” you can think of.
I was reading John this morning. John 20:31
But these are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you might have life in his name.
There are many who take great pains to teach a dogmatic formulated systematic theology in a way that those they have taught believe that is the actual gospel. But here, right now, John the Apostle says.. that if you truly believe that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Son of God. You will have life through him.
This Christmas as you go about your daily routine of life. As you go about your yearly traditions. Think about what it is you actually believe about Jesus. For after all, to use a well known cliché. He is the reason for the season.
For many Christmas is a time of rejoicing. For others its a time of heartache and pain. And whilst for others its a nightmare for they believe its an ungodly pagan festival in which they can’t wait for it to be over.
For many its a time of rejoicing for many reasons. Many are Christian and celebrate the birth of Christ. Its the celebration of God the creator coming and living with us in human flesh. Its a time of rejoicing that Emmanuel is truly with us and has been with us ever since.
For some they rejoice for other reasons. They enjoy the holiday break. They enjoy the time with family. They are no overtly religious or have any particular belief system. They just go with the flow. Its a time to give and receive.
There are others in our midst who are not able to celebrate. Christmas is a time of remorse. They may be grieving the sad news of a loved one passing away. They may be a member of the emergency services who have to attend a fatal accident. Others may be grieving the loss of family in other ways; such as divorce; they don’t have access to their children. They may be locked away in jail or perhaps are experiencing loneliness and homelessness in other ways.
For others they believe that Christmas is a pagan festival. They hate this time of year and spend huddle away from society; and critique how bad society truly is. And there just may be some who indeed are worshiping and celebrating their pagan gods this Christmas. And in doing so ignoring the birth of Christ and the hope in which he brings.
What ever your reason for celebrating or not celebrating Christmas this year; I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. I pray that Jesus who is the reason for the season will indeed become as real for you as the nose on your face is. I pray that the Lord will keep you safe and that no bad news will come your way this Christmas. And for those who this Christmas is a time of loneliness and grief; I am sorry and ask our Lord to bring comfort and peace to you in this time.
Bless you. Craig b
Have you encountered any Christian Grinches this year? You know the type who will try and say celebrating Christmas is the same as spitting in God’s eyes for celebrating a pagan festival or some other poor attempt at Biblical exegesis.
I have no problem in celebrating the birth of Christ on the 25th of December. No one I knows say he was actually born on this day. It is the day we celebrate “Emanuel” God is with us. What concerns me is that there is no recognition of the ways that church has redeemed culture / society through the changing of what once was celebrated to another emphasis.
Christmas is a time to celebrate. God sent his angels to tell some shepherds the good news. Some wise men travelled far distances to honour and celebrate the birth of Christ. And so Christmas is a great time for the church to engage with society; to engage with culture and tell the time honoured message… God has come to dwell with his people. God is for you and not against you.
Christmas is a season where we can refocus on God’s purpose for his people in coming to give all of humanity the offer of hope, joy, love, peace, patience, mercy in a time where there is little hope, joy, love, peace, patience, mercy and so to the Grinches of Christmas I say Bahhhh Humbug!
I love Christmas. I love the festivity. I love the sense of joy and camaraderie within society as society for the most part joins in and works together towards celebrating the Christmas festival. It’s great to see people smiling. It’s great to hear and see a deeper enthusiasm as people say have a great day, merry Christmas or we wish you a merry Christmas.
At the same time its a time of sadness. There is sadness within society as they miss loved ones. They may be overseas or working. They may be detached from their family through illness; separation, divorce or they may be missed through death. And there are those for what ever reason within society are lonely and detached; perhaps homeless, shut in or locked away out of sight and out of mind.
There is a sadness within the commercialisation of Christmas. Prices tend to go up. Consumerism rises with the price of unaffordable debt to be paid off for many. And they festivities are quickly forgotten as the decorations are packed away; society quickly returns to its obnoxious and self centred ways.
Yet above all this Christmas is a time of Hope. Christmas is one of the times within the calendar year in which the Church can hold its head high and declare… Christmas represents a time of hope for all. It represents God coming to earth in the flesh. Born as a baby. It represents the beginning of hope for all. God reconciling himself to all the world. Christmas is a time of celebrating the birth of Christ.
Celebrating the birth of Christ is a celebration of hope. Its a celebration of hope for the world we live in. Its a celebration of hope for the future as well as hope for the past. And its certainly a time of celebration of Hope right now. Its a celebration of the mercy of God. Its the celebration of the invitation to come and be in a relationship with God. Its the celebration of not only being in right relationship with God… it celebrates the hope we have of being in right relationship with each other.
Christmas is all about Christ. So I ask you; have you thought about what the Hope of Christ truly means for you this year?