…the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2.10-11, NRSV).
This time of year, some churches advertise a Blue Christmas Service. Words used include: “because holidays are not always a happy time,” and “Not feeling joyous this holiday season? Join us for a time of comfort and hope.” Indeed, our world is filled with reasons to be less than joyful. It is now one year since the killing of the young innocents in Newtown. People in the Philippines are still grieving over the loss of homes and loved ones. Senseless violence threatens our communities, as we’ve seen in Colorado. Personal losses, challenges, and feelings of uncertainty for the future continue to cause people anxiety or sadness.
Nevertheless, we are told to “not be afraid” and given “good news of great joy.” And that is precisely why we can be comforted and can rejoice. For in the midst of the darkness of these winter days, the darkness of life’s challenges, the senseless acts that would threaten to separate us from the love of God, the unapologetic proclamations that would minimize the role of Christ in Christmas, Jesus was born in ordinary circumstances and placed in a manger, a feeding trough, among the animals in a smelly stable, showing that Christ indeed comes to us in all sorts of our human conditions — be they ordinary, smelly, or broken.
And there is more reason for this joy. The angels proclaimed: “…to you is born a Savior….” The words of the Nicene Creed describe Jesus as the One, who “for us and our salvation came down from heaven….” Jesus’ words at the Last Supper echo this gift that he gives: that it is for you. And when we receive the Lord’s Supper, it is the body of Christ given…for you.
From the announcement of his birth, through his life, death, resurrection, and promise to return, Jesus and the church proclaim that this connection between us and our Savior is for us, out of God’s wonderful and self-giving love for us. Indeed, the name Jesus means Savior, and the name of this holy Emmanuel who is born to us means: God with us. God becoming one of us at a time when we need it most. God knowing us and understanding us. God loving us and self-sacrificing for us. And God teaching us and showing us how in Jesus’ name we can go and make a difference in the lives of others living in a broken and hurting world in need of salvation.
Indeed, it is because Jesus came for us and for our salvation, that all the other aspects that we associate and celebrate with Christmas, like peace, love, joy, hope, family, relationships, kindness, mercy, and good-will are even made possible. For these are merely the fruits of God’s Spirit and the One who is the Source of all goodness – the One who is called: “…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace“(Isaiah 9:6). Christmas is only possible because of Christ and his loving desire to be born and live among us. Indeed, the saying is true: “Jesus is the reason for the Season.”
But there is more. The Christmas message is a message we must share. The shepherds “made known what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17). My prayer for you is that you, too, will join in sharing these tidings of great joy, just like the angels and the shepherds did on that holy night. So that, just like no one would cover a light under a bushel, Jesus the Light that shines in our darkness may not be hidden, but may shine for the whole world to see. May you be a light reflecting Christ to others that they may know that “Christ” cannot be crossed out of “Christmas.”
Several years ago I heard about a Christmas card with a message that I now send you: “This Christmas, I wish you Jesus.” On the inside, it said: “Isn’t it nice to have everything!”
With prayers for a holy and blessed Christmas and all the best in the coming New Year.
(Click here to download a PDF of this message for congregational sharing.)