Christmas is a time of list making. There is the gift list, the grocery list and the to-do list. There is also often the unwritten, but very present list: the list of people in your life and on your heart. I have a feeling your list might be quite similar to mine:
So there’s the friend who shares with you that her husband of many years has told her he no longer wants to be committed. There is the husband who is struggling to find joy and he feels like there is only darkness to be found, and the wife who doesn’t know how to help him. There is the family who struggles with financial mistakes that have them burdened and the way out seems long. There is the family who is divided and has spent the past few Christmases with precious family members absent because of hurt hearts and painful unforgiveness. There is the mother you know who recently became a widow and she proudly shares photos of herself and her three beautiful children smiling bravely this Christmas without the man who meant and was so much to them. There is the family whose child is fighting a vicious enemy: cancer. And all they know now are other families in the same battle. It’s a daily battle for life and a battle for joy. There is the aunt who is weary and weak from fighting a cancer that keeps returning. There is the old man in a nursing home who is tired and grumpy, but mostly lonely. And never mind what is going on internationally in the headlines. Sometimes we can’t even look there for the looking at what is in our immediate vicinity.
There is this world full of ache and fear and dark. And Christmas comes anyway.
We go through the motions of the family gatherings, and as family gathers, so does love, and it’s almost defiant against this dark, this pain, this grief. God is love and He is here in the midst of it all. And at Christmas we are reminded that love himself came into the dark, cold, stinky mess of a stable, just as he comes is willing to come into the hard, hurting places in our lives. We really are not just celebrating a lovely story of a little baby born in a stable. The story goes far beyond that; means much more than that. We celebrate what that baby came to do. The name Jesus means "the Lord Saves". He came to save us from our dark, from our fear, from our feelings of separation from God. He is Emmanuel which means "God with us". Even if all the theology of the cross doesn’t really make sense to us right now, we can trust in his name because it is who he is: God with us. He is here; he is near. The Lord is near. Wherever we are, he comes to us humbly as a baby. They say when you first have a baby you will need some time to “get to know each other”.
So how do we get to “know” this newborn babe? In the Bible the word "know" is used to describe an intimate knowing of someone. When we pray (talk to God) and read His word (the Bible) we get to know him. When we get to know God in a personal, intimate way we learn that he is good. We lose our fear and mistrust of him. We also learn that he is the only one we need. He is our all sufficient one. Even in the dark, His love is enough. No matter the hurts we receive from others, or the pain we are dealing with through no fault of our own, his love sustains us. He is enough. We need Him. We need to “know” this God whose love came down at Christmas for us because that is exactly it - He came for us!
He came as a baby so we could get to know God’s love for us. He died on the cross so that we would never have to walk through this life feeling separate from the love who created us. And he rose from the dead so that we could have his spirit living in us. God is with us.
Your list may be long or it may have just one really heavy thing on it. All may not be merry and bright, but think of how much light a flame from a small candle can emit in a room. The light of Christ has come into the world! Have courage dear heart . . . it is going to be okay.