The Christmas season is upon us once again, the season of tinsel and reindeer and twinkly lights. I wonder what kind of Christmas you are hoping for? We’re told it’s the season to be jolly, but jolly doesn’t really do justice to a year like 2021 and we all have our stories. What about the Christmas story? How are we to make sense of this slightly strange nativity involving angels and shepherds and kings or astrologers from the East and a birth in a barn. It doesn’t seem to have too much bearing on Christmas as we know it today.
Does it have anything to say to us in the 21st century? Well yes it does. We are told that if this story is true, then we are not on our own. Many people, when they think of God, might think of a slightly aloof, distant figure who is indifferent to our lives and slightly angry with us most of the time. But if this Christmas story is true, we’re told that this God was willing to step out of eternity into human history to get involved in the grit and grief of our lives. We’re told that God has come to be with us, that we are not on our own.
We face many things in life and this year has been no exception. If the Christmas story is true, it means that whatever in life you need never face it alone. There is help available. God has come to be with you and because of this, there is hope.
There is hope for every kind of person in every situation. You’ll see that the people in this nativity are about as wide ranging as it gets. Everyone from local farmers to royalty are involved, which means that, if this story is true, there is hope for every kind of person in every situation, regardless of religious tradition, social status, race, gender, and ethnicity. God has come to be with everyone and anyone who will accept him. No one is excluded and no one is beyond the reach of God.
But even so, isn’t the Christmas story just a little bit far-fetched, I mean how can a baby be born without the help of a man? Surely people in biblical times were just a bit naïve and willing and eager to believe in miracles because they lived in a prescientific age. Well Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, knew exactly how babies were made and a miracle was not his go-to explanation! He was planning to quietly separate Mary. We also see that another biographer of the life of Jesus, someone called Luke, was a medically trained doctor whose scientific and medical training didn’t seem to his acceptance in miracles.
You see, if God exists, he would surely be capable of making a world with laws and regularities science can measure, but also occasionally suspending those laws to do something extraordinary and not because he likes to meddle with nature, but because he intervenes out of love for us.
When people are stranded and in danger in the open sea, as we’ve heard so much recently, the boat that lifts them to safety is not an irrational act of meddling, but a vital act of rescue that saves lives. Intervening to help someone in danger is an act of love. You see if the Christmas story is true, then rescue was also possible for us. Rescue from what you might ask? Well, rescue from ourselves. Some of the biggest disappointments in life come from our own mistakes and regrets. We walk through life carrying shame and guilt and deep disappointment and many of us do this for years, if not a lifetime. We carry these things, a little bit like Santa Claus with his huge sack of presents on his back.
Is there a way to be free from this? Well surely if there’s a way to be free, we need someone who can stand close enough to take these things from us. But whose hands are not weighed and not taken up with carrying heavy things? We need someone who isn’t weighed down in the same way that we are. Is there anyone qualified to bear this weight? Anyone who hasn’t known the shame and guilt that we do? Well, if the Christmas story is true, then yes. His name is Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, who grew into a boy and then a man who lived, died, and rose again, taking the full weight of all of the mess, all of the grit and grief we carry that we wish we didn’t. He took that upon himself so that these things can be lifted off of us.
Whatever you happen to believe, wherever you are in the world, Jesus says to you this Christmas, “come to me, you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
Because the Christmas story is true, we are told that there is hope for us all. We are never on our own. Forgiveness is available and change is possible and because of this there is hope for my life and yours. It is a hope that will never disappoint us.