“Have a holly jolly Christmas, it’s the best time of the year” rings in my head as I write this blog. Christmas carries with it a cultural excitement and joy that simply makes for an enjoyable season. Many of us have nostalgic memories as a child anticipating new toys, eating great food, drinking hot chocolate by the fire and having fun with family.
At some point as we grow older the Jolly of Christmas can easily be sucked out by the dark clouds of death, the cold winds of relational conflict, or the gloom of our current global situation. This world bears the loud noise of suffering that our carols become more like background music to clanging chaos of pain in this life. How does the Christian enter this season with hope and joy in such a broken world?
We remember the manger is the signpost for the breaking through of light upon our dark condition. Joy began to fill the world at the first coming of Christ because as Zechariah prophesied John would “go before the Lord to prepare his ways,” preparing for when “the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79) The manger is the first symbol of light because the person and work of Jesus beginning of the end of sin and misery for his people. Thus we are the ones who are able to have hope in the midst of overwhelming challenges and are able to sing with great relief the line from Joy to the World:
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
We remember the manger is the signpost to the cross. John the Baptist would come “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 1:77) that would come through Christ. But even our salvation would come through the highest form of human suffering imaginable. Jesus would leave heaven conscience of the fact that he was headed to the cradle but with the cross on the horizon. He would redeem us through suffering and yet suffering would also become the pattern of the Christian’s own life. Charles Wesley pinned this Biblical idea in one hymn saying:
And lo! The Man of Grief’s I see,
Whose life one scene of suffering was,
Quite from the manger to the cross.
Here then my calling I discern:
‘Tis written in affliction’s book;
My first and latest lesson learn,
For nothing here but sufferings look;
I bow me to the will Divine;
To suffer with my Lord be mine!
We remember the manger is the signpost of his Second Coming. The Messiah was the one who would bring deliverance “from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us…that we might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1:71, 74-75) The final aim of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension is all orienting us toward our final salvation in paradise. Thomas Watson, my favorite puritan author, puts it this way:
He was poor, that he might make us rich.
He was born of a virgin, that we might be born of God.
He took our flesh, that he might give us His Spirit.
He lay in the manger, that we may lie in paradise.
He came down from heaven, that he might bring us to heaven….
As you prepare for Christmas remember the joy of Christmas is not found in rosy circumstances or in the good ol’ days when life was easy (nor our seeking our own comfort per last week’s blog post). But rather we remember that a Christian is one who is able to say with Paul that we are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” and embrace the reality that we walk in the footsteps of our Master. Therefore those who have fear, sorrow, and anxiety in your heart during this season sing for joy because our Savior has come and indeed is coming again!
Author: Rev. Micah Vickery
Image: Found here