We have been told that we are entering a long, dark winter this year which for many has already been a long, dark year. Since the advent of Covid-19, we have been dominated with fear and warnings which brings about the cries, "Will this ever stop?" On top of this we have had a very contentious political season in the United States that has seemingly truly never stopped since the last Presidential election in 2016. So, I know that many people are tired, to be honest, I am tired. One thing that I have found in this season is a longing from many for something more. So many have placed their hopes in things that are fleeting and it has left so many in wont. The old ruts catch us and it becomes impossible to see any change as being possible. This is Satan's tool that causes us to lose sight of God and the promises given to us in Christ Jesus. Though this is the first time in "modern" history that we have faced such trials as a society, it is not the first time our world has faced such long, dark days nor is it the first time in Christendom.
When we become so caught up in the things of this world, we will always find ourselves in wont. They seek to bind us up and cause us to give up and fall into despair. Christ came to break this monotony and show us the way. At the time of Jesus' birth, the people of Israel were still in captivity. Yes, the were able to worship and live in Jerusalem and the Temple had been restored, but they were under the rule of foreign invaders. The faith had also been boiled down into a legalistic framework of living where the two major groups focused on living a good life in the hear and now to serve God and be blessed, the Sadducees, since they believed that this was all there was and God would bless those who were faithful and those that felt it was important to keep the biblical Law in order to receive blessings in the afterlife, the Pharisees. Now there were other sects that existed and other faiths that competed with these ideals, but the reality is that in them all God was often lost behind the constructs.
One could argue that the same continues to day and I would have to agree. We like our constructs that help us seem as if we are in control. The Devil loves to use this tool against us, also. Listen or you may suffer. Be afraid or you may be punished. A narrative is created that dictates the "good norms" of living and makes those that may think differently the enemy. It is a process that continues to repeat itself throughout history. Lives become constructs of a narrative that boils people down those who are are "right" and those who are "wrong." Each side has their own "moral" construct to deem what is "safe" and what is "dangerous" thinking. The idea of people having opinions that differ or viewpoints that don't agree is dangerous because it challenges the narrative. Truth is defined by the narrative and anything that may prove to cause the narrative not to be true is seen as fake or false or misinformation. So, all become confused and divided.
It is a perfect mix for isolation and sadness. Division is inevitable and discourse is impossible. So, where do we look? As Christians, we have the Word of God, the Bible, that is meant to be our guide. It challenges the narrative and causes us to look inward on ourselves. Those that disdain God will reject portions because it shows imperfect people, violence, murder, adultery, and all manner of ill behavior, but in it, when we read and pray, we find hope as God shows us how He utilizes these imperfect people in spite of their imperfections. Hope rises because we can look at the "heroes" and see aspects that are "worse" than "me." If God can love them, then he can most certainly love me.
Christmas points us toward the beginning of the fulfillment of that love as we are reminded that God entered His creation. God was born as a man, not only appearing as a man, but truly a man - flesh, bone, and blood. This is a fact that the enemy loves to attack, but the Truth can not be denied. We celebrate the fact that God has walked with us, knows our hurts and sorrows and is in control. He is a good and glorious God and redeems us all our sins. That is the promise that we carry out into the the world and the only hope that can restore us and sustain us. It is the hope that has transformed many throughout time. It is the hope that the Rev. Martin Luther clung to and led him to nail the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg and risk his life and reputation. As the English preacher, Rev. Charles Spurgeon, put it in his day:
To those of us who are truly the people of God, the incarnation is the subject of a thoughtful joy, which ever increases with our knowledge of its meaning, even as rivers are enlarged by many trickling brooks. The birth of Jesus not only brings us hope, but the certainty of good things. We do not merely speak of Christ’s coming into relation with our nature, but of His entering into union with ourselves, for He has become one flesh with us for purposes as great as His love. He is one with all of us who have believed in His Name. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
We are given great opportunities to proclaim His glory and we can tell His story as we read of the revelation of His birth in Matthew and Luke and hear of His ministry that He brought to us in the healing and proclamation of the promises of God. He inspired simple men to give up their simple living and become his Disciples and then gave them a calling of Apostleship and still calls us to be his disciples to sit and learn of Him and the love of the Lord. His promises do not fail because they are beyond this world. They are not caught up in a legal scheme to control and fill with fear, but in a desire to free us all from the bondage of this world. Truth is that we will never be good enough, but through Him we are made perfect. The sins that bind us, no longer can hold us and that we are truly redeemed. Place your hope in Him and no matter what challenges you face, you will find that all things can be overcome.