Thank God That Christmas Thrives in Darkness

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Thank God That Christmas Thrives in Darkness

It would be an understatement to say that this has been a difficult year.

At the beginning of the year, the country was watching impeachment proceedings and ramping up to what we all knew would be a difficult and polarizing year of politics. And then in March, life shut down, COVID-19 ravaged through our communities, killing many, infecting many more, and turning off an economic engine in a way nobody thought was possible.

Lives have been lost. Jobs have been lost. Kindergarteners started school staring at a screen while teachers frantically tried to adapt. High schoolers had to cancel their plans for senior prom.

And who would have known how intense and polarizing our national elections were to be.

The entire world is tired, stressed, anxious, and afraid. And now, with Christmas approaching, many of us are readjusting plans and expectations to respond to the chaos of 2020, adding it to the list of disappointments and disruptions that has characterized this year.

What ever happened to “Silent Night” and “It’s the most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Happy Christmas?” The only song I can think of that kind of sums up this Christmas is “Gramma Got Run over by a Reindeer.”

This is not the Christmas we all hoped for when we started January 1 of 2020. But life wasn’t the way Mary and Joseph planned it either when Jesus was born.

As crazy and sad and broken as this year has been for many, I keep coming back to the fact that God in his infinite wisdom decided to send his Son into the world under very similar circumstances.

Israel was captive to Rome. The Jewish leadership was polarized between the fundamentalist Pharisees and the progressive Sadducees. And at nine months, Mary and Joseph, already suffering under poverty and the stigma of what looked like a pregnancy out of wedlock, had to travel the long and dangerous journey to Bethlehem to register for taxes they could barely afford to pay.

Jesus didn’t show up when everything was “merry and bright.” He didn’t enter the world to “bells on Christmas day.” He was born into the darkness of a deeply broken and suffering world. As Isaiah hundreds of years before wrote, “Those who were born in darkness have seen a great light.”

Though it is not unique to this year, one thing 2020 has brought out in many of us is the deep isolation and hopelessness we all carry. For those of us who live for our summer vacations, 2020 shattered that hope. For those who live for retirement, the economic collapse shattered much of that hope. For those who live for politics, 2020 shattered hope.

2020 has shattered the pretense of hope that helped too many of us get by and left the world in darkness.

Thank God that Christmas thrives in darkness. That the hope of the world entered into the suffering of the world and brought a light that no darkness could overcome.

This year will no doubt look different for many. Traditions will be adjusted. Gift expectations will be altered. For too many of us, there will be people missing from around the Christmas tree due to COVID-19.

But no matter how different Christmas will be, the hope of Christmas is the same. The hope that, in the midst of darkness, Jesus came to make all things new.

“Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!””

-Charles Wesley, 1739

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