As the nights draw in and 3 o’clock in the afternoon is feeling more like 8 o’clock at night, I’ve been thinking about some of the dark clouds that can block the light of the rising sun of Christmas, that is Jesus. The promise was clear, “The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79) The reality is however that be it through death, disaster, disappointment, discouragement, doubt or despair, the SUN RISE of Christ’s birth can be blocked out by the gloomy clouds of these many common place things.
In many families each Christmas, there is for the first time someone missing around the table, some unexpected problem to face or perhaps some impossible request beyond either our ability or finances to fully satisfy. And through which we are reminded that sadness and stress, mixed with “joy to the world” is a bittersweet cup at best.
Still, there is, as was announced that first Christmas night, “good news of great joy” even for those walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.” Maybe, especially for them, after all as Isaiah foretold it some 700 years before, it was “On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” Don’t we all take our turn there? When the night draws in and the days run out for someone we love or for us. Yet that IS why Christmas IS such good news, because Jesus came as the rising sun to illuminate those clouds and shine the light of heaven on even the darkest corridors of our lives. Born to die, Jesus walked out of His grave to prove there is life beyond the funeral, hope beyond the failure, and a future beyond the immediate dilemma we face. Not with some religious speculation about it, but as living proof of it! His coming as the light of this world at Christmas time disperses every dark place we find ourselves and brightens every situation because not even sin and death could black Him out.
Darkness has lost. The Light has won. So why wouldn’t we not want to celebrate this Christmas? The first to do that were Shepherds and they glorified God for what they had experienced. Then came Wise Men and they worshipped Christ when they saw him. What a blessing it will be if Christmas is like that for us too!
Some might argue that as many of our Christmas celebrations grew up out of pagan roots we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. I would say they didn’t so much grow out of it but grew against it, and in contrast to it. We are not celebrating Christmas so much as we are celebrating Christ. Not celebrating by going to excess with our lives but by giving up our lives in celebration of Him. Not being squeezed into the world’s mould and conformed to its way of doing things, but being transformed by Christ to live counter-cultural to the world and joyfully celebrate His goodness to us.
I hope you will celebrate greatly this Christmas the fact that no matter how dark the days are and how quickly they draw in, when the sun comes up, it reveals what we could never otherwise get to see. The fact that in Jesus the once Rising Sun who became the eternal Risen Son, there is an answer as to why we are here, how we don’t have to be alone whilst we are here, and the certain hope of heaven when we move on from here. However we celebrate Christmas then, it isn’t a true celebration of Christ if we don’t celebrate that.
Happy Christmas and a blessed New Year,
Your Friend and Pastor.