By now you’ll know the Government has changed the law on what we’re allowed to do over Christmas. For all of us, December 25 will feel very different. Even if you’re still able to see family, lurking in the background is the Grinch, in the form of coronavirus. The new, recently discovered strain, said to be upwards of 70% more infectious, has cast a long, cold shadow over the festive season.
About a month ago, former Take That member Robbie Williams released a characteristically cheeky single called ‘Can’t Stop Christmas’. Only, it seems, they can stop and indeed, have stopped Christmas. Five days of festive ‘freedom’ has been slashed to one day and from three households, to two. It’s left millions having to re-think, re-plan and re-arrange not just eating arrangements, but also presents and travel. For all intents and purposes, Christmas 2020 just isn’t really happening.
Except, if you’re a Christian, you’ll think differently about all this. When our culture talks about Christmas being cancelled, it means the celebrations, the feasting, the presents, holiday, time with family and so on. From that perspective, they’re right. Christmas has been cancelled.
But there’s a deeper meaning and reality we look back to especially at this time of the year. Christmas really refers to real, actual historical events that happened thousands of years ago. It’s the time that you can read about in the gospels when the Christ child was born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, just as the prophets had predicted. Isaiah cried out saying ‘To us, a son is born...’. Micah insisted ‘But you, Bethlehem shall be favoured’. These predictions came true, with wonderful consequences.
So really, Christmas, in this deeper sense, is not cancelled and it can never be cancelled. Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son was born in Bethlehem, just as the angels said. He grew up in wisdom and the fear of the Lord. He began his public ministry by being baptised, identifying with those who’d broken the law of God and stepped outside the boundaries God had put in place. He delivered the sermon on the mount, healed the sick, spoke to all manner of people, from a Samaritan woman, to a rich young ruler to tax-collectors and fishermen. He welcomed little children and took issue with the cruel, coldness of the religious rulers of His day. He was perfect, keeping God’s law without any failure.
But he also was born to die. His birth all those years ago was the start of a journey that took Him to the Cross. He set his face, went to Jerusalem. He was in agony in the Garden right before He died, pleading with His Father to take the cup away. This was a reference to God’s wrath against wrongdoing and sin. But he submitted to the Father. He was arrested, tried and found guilty on false charges. He was beaten, mocked and berated. He was abandoned by His own friends.
But He did not even open His mouth.
And then he was crucified. On the Cross, he spoke 7 times. Each time giving evidence of His grace, love, compassion and mercy towards His enemies. He died in darkness, but soon rose in light. His resurrection the great moment his sacrifice on the Cross was accepted by God the Father. He died in our place. He took our sins in His own body. He substituted Himself for us and gave His life to pay the awful debt of our sin. You cannot cancel the Christ.
What he came to do, he accomplished. Now He lives to intercede for you and me. He lives to rule, reign and build His Kingdom. And He will come again in power. He is the reason all life exists and He is the only Saviour. His message to you is the same as it was when he was on earth: come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Here, my friends, is hope. Not just any kind of hope, but one that is sure and certain. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And he succeeded. You can trust Him and as you do, you’ll learn that He will never, ever, let you down.