Christmas is different - but Christ is the same: PEACE
(By Emma Main)
2020 is unlikely to go down as anyone best year (unless they’re a shareholder in Amazon or Zoom!) Life has got harder, less certain and more fearful, as death and brokenness of the world has felt more tangible than ever. Pandemic, politics, protests… this Christmas we may still be able to put up the fairy lights and light the candles, but the world seems darker than last year.
In difficult times we crave peace, stability and a sense of control - something to hold onto, a comfort in the unknown seas, something or someone that can say to us, with confidence ‘it will get better’. But this Christmas it feels hard to find that peace, hard to say that to ourselves, especially with any gravitas. It’s hard to believe others when they tell us, and this year we can’t even escape the uncertainty at a party or on holiday - it all feels very bleak.
But the joy of Christmas, the true Christmas is that there is still hope and peace is possible. The message of Jesus bringing peace in even the most catastrophic of times, to those who have lost loved ones this year, or who are alone on Christmas and to those who don’t know what the new year will bring. Although the true Christmas message doesn’t promise an easy life now, it promises true satisfaction, peace and joy forever, in eternity with God.
2000 years ago, in Palestine, things weren’t looking so peachy either. The people were suffering oppression and injustice. The scene Jesus was born into wasn’t one deserving of a King but born a refugee, in dark times. This is why John, who wrote an eyewitness account of Jesus’s life, wrote this about the first Christmas:
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1v5)
The Bible states that the first Christmas was all about light coming into a dark world and triumphing over the darkness - bring peace into the disparity. Jesus was the one who would bring this peace, driving out fear and providing hope. This is equally true for us today, which is why Christmas is still good news, even amid tier 4, no hugs and meals for one. It is hard, and sad, and we grieve what we have lost, but the bible tells us true peace is possible for those who know Jesus - its big stuff!
As John carries on he gives us three descriptions of Jesus that show us how he brings hope and provides peace:
‘We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1v14)
He came from the Father
Is this world essentially chaotic or is it under control? 2020 has shown us that, as humans we certainly don’t have control of everything. There is a sense of inherent brokenness that prevails even the best of science, or the wisest politician. If blind chemical processes are all there is, if there is nothing beyond what we can see, then chaos is all we can expect - 2020 shows this clearly. But the Bible tells and shows us that God is among us, He is bigger than this life and therefore can direct this world.
The first Christmas tells us that the God at the heart of the universe is a God of relationship: Father, Son and Spirit. The fact that ‘the one and only Son’, came from heaven to earth, from a throne to a grim stable, means he too knows tiredness and worry, betrayal and uncertainty, hunger and pain. He is a God of relationship who knows his children’s hurts and worries. A God of relationship even in a socially distant world. But if God is in control and governing all, then what is he doing? Because it doesn’t seem as if he is a loving, relational God right now.
2. He is full of grace.
How wonderful would it be if our speech was shaped by loving kindness, not by ‘have you had your test result?’, ‘we can’t do that…COVID’, ‘social distancing’ and R numbers. This is what the word grace means. I often remember it by a song I was taught when younger (some questionable tunes but great truths!), ‘grace is when God gives us the things we don’t deserve’, or often remembered by - Gods Riches At Christs Expense.
Grace is Gods loving kindness to us, God giving us what we do not deserve, relationship and security rather than punishment. And Jesus shows us, that first Christmas that God is full of grace. God is full of kindness, by sending Jesus from heaven to earth he is preparing to remake this world without coronavirus, pain, sickness or death (Revelation 21). It is that perfect life, full of peace and satisfaction that we all are searching for. Whether we are searching in trying to find satisfaction in popularity, sport or intellect, the Bible tells us that it is only truly possible through Jesus, and therefore in Gods goodness, because he is full of grace, he sent Jesus to provide a solution for the brokenness of this world.
Therefore, even when things look bleak to us, and hope seems to be lost, the God of the universe that made you and me (Psalm 139) is directing the world towards this perfect creation, where we will be united with God. Gods hidden hand is always at work, because he is full of grace.
He paid the ultimate price, Jesus (God the Son) was born to do everything necessary to invite us into this perfection. That future world, no matter who we are or what we have done. In dying and rising back to life, Jesus offers us a way through death and out the other side. He is the ultimate light in the deepest darkness of death.
Because God is full of grace, Jesus offers the forgiveness we all need for our own failing, for turning against Gods ways and living for ourselves. Gods offer is unconditional, we don’t and can’t earn his forgiveness, because we do not deserve it, but because of his great love and grace all we need to do is chose to accept it! How great is that - a world of no coronavirus or any bad thing is possible, and God has done it all for us. What a kind and gracious God!
This is a great comfort to Christians, as they have a sense of purpose and identity, knowing where they will be for eternity with confidence. This means that even if things don’t get better in 2021 or they never go back to ‘normal’, Christmas tells us that one day they will be better than they ever were. What peace this gives us in the turbulence of life.
You are invited to enjoy this perfect future forever by the God whose desire and delight is to shower you with overwhelming loving kindness.
3. He is full of truth.
It has felt to me as if 2020 has been like turning off a well-lit motorway onto a dark and twisted country road, without a sat nav or much petrol in the tank - scary and exhausting! 2020 has confronted us all, regardless of age or stage, background or set up of the reality of death. 2020 has seemed stark in the realisation that we only have one life, and it can seem unclear how we are meant to live it.
Jesus, a man who we have seen is from the Father and full of grace. Jesus - a man who claimed to be the God who directs the future, understands the past and knows us better than we know ourselves; these truths can be unsettling for us at the best of times, let alone on a dark country lane with no clue what lies ahead. No matter how unsettling Jesus’s truth is, it is always liberating. This is because Jesus offers us the insight and guidance we need, and he doesn’t go away. Jesus knows the way we need to take and the decisions we need to make (what a joy and comfort when we don’t know which way is left or right).
The Bible claims that Christmas brings hopes and if that is true, what a great peace in the uncertainty that would be. Like a giant hug with your closest friends, in front of crackling fire topped with some toasted marshmallows - all the security and joy one can think of!
‘The one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’, is the person who is in control and who offers to guide us through this life and give us a perfect future beyond. Jesus is the light that will overcome even the deepest of darkness. These seem like BIG claims, but Jesus resurrection means we can have complete confidence in Him as our Saviour - what peace this brings now and forever.
This Christmas, more than ever we are in need of hope and peace, joy and comfort. If the Bible is true, Jesus brings it, and he brings it to all. A God of grace that works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8v28), has offered you entrance into a perfect eternity. What a joy this is and the deepest kind of peace to put your trust into.
Why not find out more, there’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Peace and perfect eternity can be yours even in a coronavirus Christmas.