A season of joy? A season of hope? A season of peace? A season of love?
Where is the joy for the person who is spending Christmas for the first time without a loved one who recently died? Where is the hope for an aged man or woman whose body has been broken and battered by the hands of time? Where is the peace for the family of a soldier stationed overseas? Where is the love for the woman who is constantly verbally and physically abused by her spouse?
When we look to earthly things for joy, hope, peace and love, we often come up short. There is no doubt that we live in a world of pain, suffering, and heartache. While many go about their shopping and baking and gift-wrapping with bright smiles on their faces, there are many others who are battling loneliness and depression during the holiday season.
How can that be? How can there be sadness during the Christmas season? How can there be depression with all the bright lights and decorations and gifts? How can it be? Well, it’s because that’s not what Christmas is. Christmas today has become a generically religious season overrun by commercialism. But before the long lines at the store, before the debate over calling it a Christmas or a holiday tree, before the bright wrapping paper, before the gifts, before the ornaments and the garland and the strings of lights, before the tales of a fat man dressed in red and white, before all the festivities and cards and candy canes, before Christmas was ever a holiday — there was a baby boy named Jesus born in a manger thousands of miles away and 2,000 years ago.
That is what Christmas is all about. That baby boy was no ordinary boy. He was the Son of God. He left heaven and entered this world of pain, suffering and heartache. In a world where joy and hope and peace and love are hard to find and seldom last, Jesus Christ came to offer eternal joy, certain hope, spiritual peace, and the undeserved love of our Creator.
Jesus came to rescue us from the punishment of our sins — our disobedience toward God. The eternal joy we have is the promise of heaven for those who trust in Jesus as their rescuer from sin. Because Jesus paid for our sins we have a certain hope that we no longer have to pay for those sins. Because Jesus took away our sins, we are at peace with our Creator. God has shown us his love for us by sacrificing his own Son for our sins.
A season of joy? A season of hope? A season of peace? A season of love? Yes!
When we go to the source and the original reason for our Christmas celebration, this will always be a season of joy, hope, peace and love.
I know that many people don’t like to hear about sin. Not me. It might not be pleasant, but if I have sinned against God, I’d rather have a friend lovingly show me that sin. That way I can turn to God for forgiveness. Isn’t that what the baby in the manger is all about? For me, that’s the best part of worship – confessing my sins to God and hearing the pastor proclaim to me that I am forgiven.
In a world of pain, suffering, and heartache, isn’t it wonderful to know that God has provided a remedy for our sin-sick souls. While the world will always remain unpredictable and full of troubles, our hearts can always be filled with the joy, hope, peace and love of knowing our Savior. Remember that baby boy in the manger. He is God’s gift to you this Christmas, every Christmas, and every day of your life.
As the angels proclaimed the night Jesus was born, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!”
• Steven Wall is pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Juneau.