In the middle of hardship, Christmas is right on time.

This was to be an unusual but fun Christmas for our family. We were set to leave this morning for the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Glowing reports from friends enticed us to see it for ourselves. But yesterday our van developed a mechanical problem that grounded our plan.

When bad things happen to us this time of year, we usually wonder, “Why now?” That question does not occur to Christians in many parts of the world, because they live on the edge every day. Here’s a little perspective. While we enjoyed peace on earth during our     pre-Christmas church services, a church in Nigeria was attacked by terrorists who murdered the pastor and several others during their Christmas Eve service.

Yet, even minor inconveniences are intrusions on our expectations for trouble-free living. In a post on Christmas Eve two years ago, I shared a refreshingly different view from a local emergency room physician, Dr. Edwin Leap, who had just received news that his wife had cancer. After I re-read that post recently, the Holy Spirit used the doctor’s insights and my reflections on them to make a personal application.

Two years ago Dr. Leap’s response to his bad news was, “isn’t it wonderful that Christmas came now,” meaning that Jesus’ coming brings hope in adversity.  He wrote on his blog today that his wife spent this Christmas with their family “as healthy as ever.” But for my family, it was our first Christmas without my sister Ruth, who died on November 12. We are relieved that her suffering is over, but the pain of her absence tinges our celebration.

Is it still “wonderful that Christmas came now? Yes, because severe losses are the most poignant reminders of how much we needed Jesus to come. They add a new meaning to Charles Wesley’s beloved carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” His line, “late in time behold Him come,” probably means that the human race had a long wait for Messiah. But that line could just as well be, “Right on time, behold Him come.”

We can be fairly confident that Jesus was not born on December 25. That date had its origins in pagan ritual, but was converted for Christian purposes to rid the day of its sensual excesses. Some, like the Watchtower Society, react by abandoning the holiday altogether. This strikes me as perhaps right-hearted but wrong-headed.

A better response is to embrace the truth that Jesus’ coming signaled the departure of the monopoly of sin and death. Adversity has no respect for when we celebrate holidays. So Christmas is the best possible news, any day of the year.

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2 Responses to In the middle of hardship, Christmas is right on time.

  1. menjaian@aol.com says:

    Dear Stephen:

    Thank you for this. It was encouraging to me.

    Love,

    Mom

    Like

  2. Back during the days I served as a pastor (about 25 years), about every third year I would teach a Sunday School series on “Should Christians Celebrate Christmas” in which, in good debate style, I would take both sides of the question. In first part of the lesson series I explained the origins, history, and philosophical underpinnings of “Christmas” and how antithetical they truly were to our faith. Most believers have no idea how contrary to true Christianity the so-called “Christmas” traditions have developed over the years. Often by the time I was finished with second or third lesson many of the adults, who had initially considered me the “Grinch” of the pulpit were nearly convinced to say “bah, hum bug” and cast out the pagan festival as unworthy of their time and treasure.
    However, the second half of my Sunday School series was devoted to reasons to avail ourselves of the emphasis the world gives to first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. While we are not commanded to celebrate His birth, God surely does make an emphasis on it for sound theological reasons and when God emphasizes something we are not amiss in pointing it out. Also, so much about the season gives us the golden opportunity to witness to the world about the Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, a Savior who was born to die so that we might live.
    Like the author of this blog I have suffered the loss at Christmas time. My beloved grandmother went to be with the Lord on Christmas Eve after suffering from devastating spinal and brain cancer in 1977, and my mother went to heaven just a few days after Christmas in 2008 after suffering from colon, liver, and lung cancer due exposure to asbestos from washing my father’s clothing (he went to be with the Lord some six years before she died of the same cancer he was exposed to because of his occupation.) These deaths were hard to face and for a time served to rob me of any joy around the celebration of Christmas.
    At some point I came to realize what the author of this blog points out so well: “severe losses are the most poignant reminders of how much we needed Jesus to come.” The birth of Jesus is the beginning of the solution for man’s sin. It qualified Him to be my Savior – He could save my mother, my grandmother, my father, dear Ruth, and all who will come to Him for pardon because He became the GOD-MAN by the miracle of the incarnation. Thank God, He did not remain a baby in manger but went as God’s Lamb to the cross, died as our sacrifice and substitute, and though buried in a borrowed tomb, He arose on the third day to assure us the sacrifice was accepted. Someday, and it will be very soon I hope, just as He came the first time He will come again. My Grandmother, my mother, my father, dear sister Ruth, and all those who are His own will gather together and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Now that’s a Christmas to celebrate!

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