In Focus

Christmas 2016

cox_andreFor children in many countries around the world, Christmas is a time of great anticipation and excitement.

Christmas is rightly emphasized with the joy of children, for the wonderful story of Christmas is about the coming of the Christ–child of whom we read in Luke’s Gospel:

‘In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told’ (Luke 2:1–20 NIV).

The Christmas story is for all people of all ages and cultures, and is about how God came into our ordinary, everyday world as a little baby so that he could live with us and share in our lives. The coming of Christ at Christmas changed the course of human history.

We love to look at what we think is an idyllic and beautiful picture of that first Christmas. Yet a stable is hardly a good place for a baby to be born. The reality is that there was no room for Jesus.

That reality is still true today with the over–commercialization of Christmas to the point where most of our time, energy, and attention is focused on other things. We are so busy that we have no space or time left to remember that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Christ–child.

God came into the world for the poor, ordinary people, not just for kings and princes. The announcement of the angels concerning the birth of God’s Messiah is to a group of shepherds. What a wonderful thought that God came into the reality of our human existence and came, without discrimination, for the humble, ordinary people.

James Irwin, one of the few astronauts to have walked on the moon, was asked about his experiences in space. He spoke about the importance of space exploration and how mankind has been helped with medical research, new technologies, and a greater understanding of the universe in which we live. He went on to describe the wonder of gazing at our small blue planet from such a distance in space and realizing just how beautiful and unique it is. He also spoke about the wonder of standing on the moon in 1971 and seeing an earthrise. He said that it is important for the good of mankind that it is technically possible for a man to walk on the moon, but how much more important it is that God, in Jesus, came into our world and walked upon earth. The arrival of Jesus in our world makes many things possible: It is possible for us to know hope and love; to enjoy a personal relationship with God the Creator; to experience forgiveness for the wrong things that we do; and it is possible for us to experience a sense of peace and belonging in this troubled world.

Sadly, we see still so much injustice, hate, violence, and corruption in the world that at times we are brought to utter despair. If only the world would see and take hold of the greatest gift that God gives us in Jesus.

The words of Major Joy Webb’s song “Come into our world!” reflect a longing and a plea, for without God our world is a sorry place:

All around us, seemingly, darkness holds its sway;
Truth and love are faltering, peace in disarray;
And if we needed you, we need you now!
Come into our world,
Come into our world, now, Lord Jesus!
People sit in loneliness, children cry for bread;
Men fight men in hatred, by suspicion led;
And if we needed you, we need you now!
Faced with such confusion, hope has slipped away;
Men have stopped believing, forgotten how to pray;
And if we needed you, we need you now!

Thankfully it does not need to be like this. Our world can be different, but if that is to happen it requires each of us to experience a change of heart, to be changed and transformed so that the life God intended for us becomes a reality through his Son, Jesus. No wonder that the angels rejoiced and sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven…’ (Luke 2:14).

—  General André Cox