No-One Can “Cancel” Christmas

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.


The Blessings of Light

This time of year can be very gloomy and dark, and unlike the Christmas period there are no pretty fairy lights to lighten the mood! When you get up, it’s dark; when you return from work, it’s dark. There’s the odd sunny day, but many more damp, grey days. Some people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and use light boxes to help them through until the days lengthen.

Everything looks and feels different in the dark. Familiar places and routes appear different and scary, even though we might travel that way regularly. I struggle to make things out in the dark when I’m driving. Things that I know are simply lampposts could be people waiting to cross the road. I find it harder to assess the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles. If I walk in the dark, I feel a bit wary, being anxious in case someone is following me with the will to do me harm. I had to laugh at myself recently when I got into my car to go somewhere one evening and locked myself in, which I do in the dark but not in the daylight, and then suddenly thought, “hold on, what if there’s someone in here and I’ve locked them in with me?”! I laughed thinking about how silly it all was; the likelihood was no-one was in the car waiting to pounce on me, and probably no-one will ever jump into my car at the traffic lights to do anything to me. What is it about the absence of light that affects us so deeply?

Light makes plants grow. Daylight enables us to get on with our life, to see where we are going. Sunshine brings with it warmth and a sense of well-being. When we go into our homes in the dark, the first thing we will do is reach for the light switch. Thank the Lord for the gift of electricity!

This week I have been writing a talk on Revelation 2:18 – 29, which is a letter to believers at a church in Thyatira. The Lord promises Christians who persevere the gift of the “morning star”. I did some research to find out what or who this morning star is, and found a thought-provoking quote in the commentary by Matthew Henry:

“Christ is the morning star. He brings day with Him into the soul, the light of grace and glory.”

This is when I started to think about the necessity of light in our everyday lives, and of what we miss without it. What does it mean that Christ “brings day with Him into the soul”? This implies that without Him our souls are in a state of darkness, of night-time. Like us trying to find our way around in the dark, we are merely groping around for truth but with no guiding light. To know Christ is to see things as they really are. Our eyes are opened and we recognise the folly of trying to make our own way in life, of trying to do it all on our own.

We experience the warmth of His love and the joy of sins forgiven. For the first time in our lives we are truly alive; before, we thought we were living, but now we really are. We recognise the grace of God that has brought this gift of salvation to us, and thankfulness wells up inside us, where once we were completely indifferent.

We know something of the glory of God. When Jesus was glorified before the disciples at the Transfiguration, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Mat 17:2). In the early chapters of Revelation when He appears to John on the isle of Patmos, we are told that “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Rev 1:14). No-one can stand before the glorified Christ in their own strength; only through the shed blood of the Lamb will we be made right before Him.

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13 – 14

The darkness of this life need not swallow us up. If we have put our faith in Jesus and trust Him as our Lord and Saviour, not only will we know the light of His presence in our lives today, but one day we will see the “Bright and Morning Star” for ourselves and live in His light eternally.