Christmas. It's one of my favorite times of the year. It's the time when the cities get festive and strangers exchange greeting of good cheer. It's when we light up the fire or snuggle on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. There's beautifully decorated trees and Christmas goodies, family fun and warm wishes.
But what is it about this holiday that makes it so beautiful to so many people?
It's the four words of well wishes we send people through Christmas cards:
Love. Joy. Peace. Hope.
These four words contain the four reasons we push for life. We long for love. We desire joy. We crave for peace. We seek hope.
This time of year the world recognizes more openly its longing for these values and searches for something to satisfies the cravings.
Oftentimes the answers we come up with are a significant other. The latest gadget. Giving to charity. Resolutions to do more, be better. A boost of self-esteem. Kindness to strangers.
While not bad, these actions or things can never fill the need which we often seek them to complete. As the Christmas holiday season ends and first January, then February roles around, it's no wonder depression and suicide rates spike - we find all our hopes for fulfillment continually dashed as we discover that we still feel unloved, still lack joy, still remain restless.
Still are without hope and floundering in despair.
Maybe this is where you find yourself this holiday season. If so, let me share with you this:
It doesn't have to be this way.
From before time, God had planned to send Christ Jesus His Son "who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession" (Titus 2:14). The truth is, there is lasting love, joy, peace, and hope which can be found, and at the point in time now known as "the first Christmas", God revealed to us the source of these attributes.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
- John 3:16-17
We look for love but often are disappointed as we realize that the "love" others had for us disappeared when we no longer met their needs.
But not God. At our worst, when we continually rejected Him and pushed Him away, God showed us true love - a love that is not fickle, but faithful. A love that chose to love us despite our failures and buy us back to Himself even when we unfaithfully resisted Him. A love that says "I have chosen you. You are Mine, and no matter what you do or say, I will never stop loving. I may rebuke and correct and discipline, but always out of love. You cannot lose a love I give unconditionally."
"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
- Luke 2:10-11
True joy isn't a feeling that comes and goes with passing emotions. Instead, joy is the deep delight found in something - in someone. When our joy rests in a Savior who would limit himself and come to earth to die so that He might redeem us, and when nothing can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39), we find that we are filled with a joy that never leaves - a joy that lasts through every difficulty and shines through the bleakest times.
We are loved, we are precious, we have worth. We are Christ's, and in this we find joy.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there is no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this."
- Isaiah 9:6-7 (Emphasis mine).
The peace we search for is often along the lines of an end of war, complete tolerance, total agreement - or everyone hugging each other while singing 'kumbaya'. But this isn't the optimum peace, peace between men.
No: what is truly astounding and awesome is that, because of Christ's sacrificial life and death for us, we might come to know perfect peace with an infinitely holy and righteous God. As this peace is made available because of Christ, it is a peace that will never be vanquished - a peace that will never end between God and those He has redeemed.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
- Romans 15:13
Hope - it's what keeps up going in our bleakest moments. Hope that life will turn around for the better, that everything will be okay, that all the misery and pain and suffering we endure will one day be over.
The truth is that, without Christ, there is no hope. This truly is "your best life now" and death is indeed to be feared. If this is all there is, than nothing really matters and there's no point to morals. We have no worth other than what others ascribe us - a worth that constantly changes. A life left to chance is a life without purpose. Life may get better, but it may also get worst, never improving.
What is the point of living when nothing - including yourself - matters?
But, praise God, our lives do matter. We were created for a purpose. There is a reason for all our suffering and pain. In Christ, we find our value and identity: priceless in the eyes of our Redeemer, who bought us back at the immense love and great cost of Christ's sacrificial death at Calvary. As we stand before God because of what Christ has done for us for His glory, we realize our hope. We can be made right with God, forgiven for our resistance and rebellion against His authority. It is a hope given freely to us because Christ paid the costly price.
* * *
While all the world wishes for brighter days this Christmas season, stop and remember what Christmas is about. It isn't about a cute little story of a great person being born in a crazy way.
Christmas is the telling of hope born in the darkness.
God became man to fulfill the promise of redeeming those who might turn away from living a life of self-pleasure and surrender their lives to the One whom it has always belonged.
As the world searches for something to fill the longings, I am praying that you might know the true love, joy, peace, and hope that can only come from the Holy God and Perfect Redeemer, Jesus Christ.