General’s Christmas Message
It’s Time For Christmas!
It’s time for Christmas! So quickly have the months slipped by, we may find ourselves unprepared for this festive reminder of the fading year. Still, the rich spiritual meaning of Advent and its promise of cheerful family celebration make it welcome all the same for most of us. But for others, who may be struggling with crises of life and death, treading sorrowfully on the broken shards of their shattered dreams, this may seem a painful time for talk of Christmas. They have no heart for celebration–least of all, to celebrate the coming of light and love into our world with the birth of the baby Jesus. For them, at least, it is not the right time for Christmas. We understand that. In fact, the first Christmas came at what seemed a most unlikely time.
Rome held a viselike grip on the throats of the freeborn of earth. The Empire’s domination over so much of the world was enforced by the heavy fist and savage swords of its victorious legions. Wherever the Roman standard stood, an uncomfortable peace was forced upon its subservient peoples. But beneath the surface of that highly touted pax Romana, one sensed a seething cauldron of hatred and fear, and a desperate longing to be free.
Taxation was at the whim of Rome and its corrupt agents. Justice was harsh. The law gave the poor and powerless little hope of redress. Life was hard, short, and brutal. Little wonder the flame of hope seemed to be guttering into the gloom of despair.
It was a time when a paranoid puppet king like Herod, fearful for his throne, could order the slaughter of innocent children, until the streets, running with blood, rang with the anguished cries of bereaved mothers. A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. (Matthew 2:18) Sadly, it was not the only time when children, born or unborn, have been sacrificed on the altar of self-interest.
It was a time when the only recourse for those hounded by oppressive governments was to flee as refugees to more friendly nations, as Jesus and his parents were forced to do. The holy family knew the precarious existence of refugees, bereft of the rights of citizenship, struggling to survive as aliens.
Truth be told, the time of Jesus’ birth was a time not unlike our own, in all too many parts of our world. Birth was risky then in the best of circumstances, and Mary in her birthing of the Savior on the bare floor of a stable was denied even the sparse comforts of her humble home. Bringing a child into such a world held other and greater risks. But, as author Madeleine L’Engle reminds us, it is only love that summons the courage to take the risk of birth–then, and now.
It was just at this unlikely time that God chose to cause the Lord Jesus to be born into our troubled world. Convenient or inconvenient, rational or irrational, it was time for Christmas! Not long after Jesus had lived and died, and risen to reign at the right hand of his Father, the unlikely apostle, Paul, wrote of his Savior’s coming: When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. For there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 4:4-5, 3:28).
In God’s eternal program of human salvation, the deeper the darkness, the brighter shines the Light that has come into the world; the more brutal and hate-filled that world, the more radiant the grace and truth to be seen in Jesus. The more broken our humanity and bereft of hope, the more welcome is the angelic promise of Glory to God in the highest and peace (among those) on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14). The time had fully come for God to act, the time for the Christ to be born. It was time for Christmas.
Over the centuries there has been continued and, sadly, often bitter disagreement, among Christian believers as to the appropriate date for the celebration of Christmas. The search for a commonly agreed date throughout the Christian world continues in current ecumenical discussion It is widely accepted that Jesus probably was not born on the 25th of December, though most Christians celebrate the festival of his birth on that date. But far more important than agreeing on the time for the Christmas celebration is recognizing that it is time for us to open our hearts to the Christmas miracle now. For to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). And he does just that today for all who will open their hearts to the Lord Jesus and receive him as Savior by faith.
Your life may be falling apart as you read this. It may seem the most unlikely of times. But in God’s economy it may be just the time when he is inviting you to open your heart to the grace and truth that come to us as God’s incredible gift in the Lord Jesus. He wants to bring healing and wholeness to you again. You may be in the grip of an irrational obsession, imprisoned by addiction, sick with a bottomless hatred, aflame with an uncontrollable passion, sunk in dark depression and despair. It is time for Christmas–time for the liberating, life-giving Word of God made flesh in Jesus, to walk into the misery and meaninglessness of your life. It’s time for Christmas.
You don’t have to wait until you hear the bells of Christmas Day. You can know the joy of his forgiveness and fellowship restored, right now. God has taken the initiative in love. This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:9-10). Christ has come. He is here. He offers to you now the gift of the Father’s love revealed in his life outpoured on the Cross. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). It’s time for Christmas–time to receive with wonder and gratitude God’s indescribable Gift in his Son, the Christ of Christmas.