Many people think that Christmas is a time of “joy to the world” and “peace on earth, good will toward men.” Of course, Jesus’ coming is a source of joy. And He did come as the Prince of peace. And, yes, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” — clearly an act of “good will” from God to man.
But the testimony of scripture is that this new, reborn life that comes through Jesus is not as sugary sweet as the portfolio of Christmas card images seems to indicate.
Jesus’ coming was not the end-all of the redemption story, and especially not the end of the work of Jesus! No, we are now in the “not-yet” tension of the gospel being preached to the ends of the earth before He comes again. So, the ongoing spiritual warfare we find ourselves in leaves us as people of HOPE.
Jesus also promised that those who believe in the sign of His coming will be persecuted. From Jesus’ flight to Egypt because of Herod’s slaughtering of the innocent children in Bethlehem … to His crucifixion of Calvary, the Christmas coming of Christ has inaugurated continued TRIBULATION.
Jesus also charged us to ask the Father for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – because, as a general rule, it’s not. So we wrestle our way through an imperfect world as people of PRAYER.
Is the onset of grand cosmic tension commenced by Christmas really cause for rejoicing?
The chorus of the classic Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel captures the fullness of what it means to rejoice in hope. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” In many church settings, the “shall” is changed to “has”. But the biblical truth is that there is joy in the tension, grace in the tribulation, and blessing in the waiting. We rejoice in hope.
I heard the comment this year that “waiting for the presents under the tree is even better than opening them.” I’m not totally sure about that! … but there is something wonderful about waiting. God’s grand design in Christ has us waiting, longing and hoping. Our greatest joy is found in that design. So, on this 7th day of Chrsitmastide, let’s rejoice in hope.