Christmas in 2020 will be a bleak time for many. In places all over the globe the coronavirus continues to run rampant, infecting and then killing, millions of people. Though we have been spared the worst of it in Australia, each night we hear of one horror story after another. No one can deny that all is not well in this world.
Yet into a world of such massive uncertainty and brokenness, into our world, God sent his son ‘to save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). God’s purposes are unstoppable and his goodness is beyond anything we can imagine. The best efforts of human beings, the raging of the elements, and even a deadly pandemic, simply will not overthrow God’s purpose. God has a plan. It is a good plan. And it centres on Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
So Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, reminds us that the seemingly never-ending cycle of loss and disappointment, shame and powerlessness, that we all witness and many of us experience, is not the final word. It is right to feel the weight of the world’s convulsions and disappointments. Yet it is critical that we remember God is moving all things towards the goal he has planned for them. And such is God’s goodness, that his goal is astonishingly grand and beautiful and satisfying (Rom. 8:18). The same Jesus who grew in Mary’s womb, was born into the world, always did his Father’s will, and always showed compassion and mercy to the broken, injured, oppressed and needy, will return. And when he does it will be mind-blowingly good.
Christmas is one of those amazing times that all at once encourages us to look back (to the moment God broke into his own creation to save it), to look around (at the many indications that God has not abandoned us, even though no-one could blame him if he had), and to look ahead to the second coming of Jesus, when every wrong will be set right and God’s Messiah will gather people from all tribes, languages and nations to enter into the joy of our master (Matt. 25:23). The one born in the manger, who came to save his people from their sins, is the one who will return to rescue his people from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).
So, as we celebrate Christmas this year in a very strange and confusing context indeed, let us remember the scale of what God is doing and the one who stands at the centre of it all — the one who has called on us to leave aside everything and follow him.
May Christmas in 2020 be a wonderful comfort and encouragement to each one of you.
Mark D Thompson