I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 has been a year of difficulty and pain for many people. It isn’t one that most of us will look back on with fondness, and perhaps it’s one that we are looking forward to seeing the back of.
Many people in the UK were looking forward to having a few days at Christmas with family or loved ones, but as the days have gone on stricter restrictions have been placed on our gatherings. At first, it was that up to three households could meet together for five days over Christmas, running from the 23rd to the 28th. Then there were statements issued that we must have a “merry little Christmas”, with “little” being the main point. Then yesterday large parts of the south east were placed into tighter Tier 4 restrictions, meaning that no-one from those areas is meant to leave their homes to travel and see family in other parts of the country. For those of us who can still move around a bit, family gatherings have been restricted to one day only, Christmas day itself.
The media have taken to saying that the government has “cancelled” Christmas. It may be that for many of us, Christmas will not be what it usually is, and there will be sadness about that. But the government can never take away the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever our circumstances, whether we find ourselves in want and need at this time, or in plenty; whether we are suffering ill health, or are well, the true Light of Christmas will never be extinguished.
Jesus Christ was not born into wealth or privilege. He wasn’t born into plenty, he was born into poverty. The political situation at the time was not good. Rome was occupying Israel; things were pretty bleak. Into this barren landscape the Saviour of the world was born. He didn’t come to a palace, he came to a lowly stable, being laid in a manger by his young teenage mother, Mary.
Jesus’ birth brought joy, though, real and lasting joy. We read in Luke 2 of the angels who visited the shepherds that night. It was probably just a normal night for them, watching over the sheep, and then “an angel of the Lord appeared to them”. They were terrified, yet the angel told them not to fear.
“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 Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (v10, 11)
This was not an exclusive message that was only for a few chosen people, this was inclusive, for everyone. After the angel had shared this message a great throng of angels filled the sky praising God, saying:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!"
God was pleased to send His Son into our broken and needy world so that people like us might experience the hope and joy of sins forgiven even in the midst of pain and suffering. This present world and all its struggles are not the end of the story. There is so much more!
In John 1, the writer introduces Jesus to us as the true Light.
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (v5)
“The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (v9)
This is the true Light of Jesus Christ which the shepherds witnessed that night as they went to see Him for themselves. They were so overjoyed to have found the Light that they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20).
So, in these days, as the media tells us that Christmas has been “cancelled”, and we feel the darkness of the pandemic, look to the Lord Himself who loved us so much that He entered our world as a tiny, helpless baby. He brings lasting joy, and gives us a peace that no circumstances can destroy. He is our Light in the darkness which no darkness can extinguish.
With every blessing to you and your families, whatever your circumstances this day. May you know the Light of His presence at this Christmas time and into the future.