Christmas can be a difficult time. For every person enjoying the Yuletide cheer, there is another quietly dreading the festivities to come.
Even among Christians – where the goodness of the coming of Christ is in no doubt – this time of year can elicit strong emotions. Beloved carols, once sung with gusto, can stick in the throat as we reflect on our own circumstances or those of ones we love.
Silent night seems an unrealistic prospect for the carer or young mum battling repeated interruptions to sleep. Holy night seems an unlikely outcome for those embroiled in addictions that overwhelm. All is not calm in the family torn apart by domestic violence, divorce or the outbursts of a troubled teen. And there is little that feels bright in the lives of those mourning the loss of loved ones or weighed down by the depths of depression.
The very words that bring others joy can grate deep within our hearts.
Which is why it is so very important to remember that Jesus came into the world precisely because it isn’t silent, it isn’t holy, it isn’t calm and it isn’t bright. He came because the world is broken, and we are broken within it.
His birth is one that speaks directly into the pain we feel at Christmas where it offers rest for the burdened, forgiveness for the sinful, reconciliation for those far away and hope for those in darkness.
The incarnation points to a God who is willing to come down to be with us in the mess of this life and lead us through to a place where the hardship will one day be nothing more than a memory. It points to a God who is compassionate, wise, merciful and patient. It points to a God who is intimate and gently walking before us as our perfect Good Shepherd.
So maybe our aim this season, as people who love to encourage others, is to take our Christmas cue from Romans 12:15. We can rejoice with those who are rejoicing at the birth of Jesus. And we can mourn with those who are mourning – but not as people who are without hope. Rather, as those who know that Jesus’ birth can be remembered not just as an historical fact but as a powerful, transformational, relational act that brings hope for today and tomorrow…
Christ the Saviour is born!