In an hour period listening to the radio this morning while I did some housework and then loaded up our advent calendar with chocolate, I heard of disillusionment with big business, loss of faith in governments, threats of increased world unemployment, worries about tyrannical leaders, breakdown of treaties between countries and fear of world war in the not too distant future. It wasn’t exactly an uplifting start to the morning.
At the moment with the political turmoil and horrific things we hear going on around the world we all recognise we are living in an uncertain time. We see the problems and hear many different opinions about how to deal with the darkness that seems to be closing in.
This may be obvious, but nevertheless is true – the world needs hope. We need hope.
I couldn’t help but reflect on the relevance of the message of Christmas to what I was hearing this morning. Here’s the prophet Isaiah speaking hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth,
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light! Isaiah 9:2, The Message
The thing about this darkness is that it isn’t just outside of us – something that other people do – it’s in all of us. To solve the darkness in the world, something has to be done about the state of our own hearts. It’s hard to recognise this and oh so easy to recognise it in others. It’s hard to see our own need for salvation.
The good news and the hope is that light has come. This is what Christmas is all about. Christ has come.
The story could hardly be more relevant to today’s world. After Mary’s seeming scandalous pregnancy, he is born in a borrowed smelly stable miles from home in a small town in an occupied territory, fleeing from a genocide with his family as a tiny child, living as a refugee…such an obscure way for the King of kings to enter the world.
It wasn’t the way the Jews of the time expected the Messiah to come. They expected a leader to rise up who would crush their enemies, free them from their oppressors and make Israel great again. Jesus, the son of a carpenter from Nazareth, was not at all their idea of a saviour. He grows up and starts preaching about repentance, and he heals people, and he claims to forgive sins – the Jews knew only God could forgive sins and were offended by Him. Then after three years Jesus is tried at an illegal trial on trumped up charges, whipped and beaten, and dies an excruciating and tortuous death on a Roman cross. Surely, the darkness won there…
But no, this is hope. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God (John1:1) and He lived just as we do. He faced the challenges and the suffering that we do, faced the same temptations yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). There was no darkness in him, because He is the light of the world (John 8:12). Then He, who didn’t deserve death, died in our place, to take the penalty for sin that we deserve. The story doesn’t end there though, because Jesus rises from the dead, defeating death and darkness, giving us hope of eternal life.
This is our hope then – that our hearts can be transformed by this God who loves us so much that he comes to our world himself to deal with sin, our stubborn turning away from Him, and He offers us a way out of that ‘land of deep shadows’. It is His gift to us. He offers light and hope of life beyond what we can see, if we choose to accept his offer, beyond the hope that any political leader, or idea, or treaty, or government, or even our own resolve can give. It is hope for the world.
This is why I love Christmas. Let the countdown begin.