Some people feel that Christmas can’t come early enough. I disagree. One year I was totally confused by the sight of fruit mince pies. I had to literally stop my trolley and try and figure out what month it was. Was it November already? October? I eventually realised it was in fact, only August! I was shocked that fruit mince pies were being sold so early, and I refused to pop any in my trolley – it was just too early for Christmas.
My husband, however, felt quite differently. When I told him I saw fruit mince pies at the shop, he was shocked that I didn’t buy any. So that year I bought fruit mince pies for months. Months! And why not? Why must fruit mince pies be restricted to Christmas?
There are just some things we delegate as “Christmassy” and as much as we like them (or hate them), they belong to the Christmas season, not all year round. Christmas trees, stockings, Christmas lights. Christmas carols in the supermarket. Thank goodness, you are probably thinking. Life would be crazy if we had to do that all year round. Just ask anyone in retail what they think of Christmas Carols playing repeatedly in the shops.
But many in Australia feel the same about Jesus. We can tolerate a little bit of Jesus at Christmas, but that’s it. We will sing a couple of songs about baby Jesus being born in a manger or visited by three Kings or my favourite the little drummer boy. We might even go to church Christmas eve or Christmas day, but please don’t mention Jesus on Boxing Day – we’ve done our bit!
The problem with packing up Jesus along with our Christmas tree is that we miss out on everything Christmas promises: Peace, Joy, Love and Hope. These aren’t just supposed to be hash-tagged on your Christmas Day Instagram, but day to day promises, in fact- eternity long promises, that God has made to anyone and everyone who is willing to believe in his Son Jesus.
The first time people heard that Christmas was to be all about Love, Joy, Peace and Hope was the night of the very first Christmas: Jesus’ birth. It probably started like any other night. Shepherds shivering in the cold, protecting the sheep. As they chatted around the campfire, they would have been unaware that a young lady named Mary was giving birth to her first born son amongst the animals in the nearby village, Bethlehem. But they soon found out. An angel appeared before these shocked shepherds and announced the birth of the Saviour, King and Lord – the baby Jesus wrapped and lying in a manger.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
If we listen carefully to the angels, they are telling us, it’s not just the birth of Jesus that is special, but who Jesus is and what he is going to do. He’s Saviour, King and Lord. Jesus is God’s way of saving and ruling the world, of bringing Love, Joy Peace and Hope into this broken world. Jesus mission is to put everything right.
Jesus walked around the dusty streets of his time with a simple but world-changing message: “Repent and Believe for the Kingdom of God is near”.
What is the Kingdom of God? It was a bit of a new way of thinking for the people listening to Jesus too, so Jesus showed them. Jesus healed people from their diseases, he raised people from the dead, he laughed with the children and ate with the outcasts. He forgave where others judged and loved where others hated. He provided food to the hungry and taught us how to pray and live. In short, Jesus was showing us of that in God’s kingdom things are the way we desperately need them to be – restored, healed, pure, safe, loving, joyful and peaceful.
But these signs that Jesus really could put things right were only part of the picture. Jesus also taught that he would overcome our greatest enemy, but to do it he must die.
A week before Jesus’ death, he insisted on walking into a city called Jerusalem where he knew he would be betrayed and falsely accused. His friends were reluctant to go, but Jesus told his friends that he needed to do this. It was by his death that Jesus would be the saviour the angels said he was. It doesn’t sound very Christmassy to me. So what’s going on?
The sad reality is that each of us has walked away from God. To walk away from God also means we are walking away from everything good that God provides. This becomes not just a problem for us now, but an eternal problem as our relationship with God has been ruined. Because of this, each of us experience and inflict pain in different but very real ways. We want the wrongs to be judged, but this means our wrongs also need to be judged. And the bible says that when judged we’ll be found to be guilty and deserving of death and eternal separation from God. And if this was the only outcome of our years on this earth, there would be no message of love, hope, peace or joy.
But God sent his son Jesus, to save us from the punishment we deserve. The angels weren’t kidding when they said Jesus would be the saviour and this is joyful news. He would die and be separated from God as the way for all the pain and hurt and guilt to be forgiven and wiped away.
About 33 years old, having only loved and preached repentance and forgiveness, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. His teachings and miracles had offended those in power, and he was handed over to the Romans where his punishment would be death by crucifixion. They didn’t stuff it up. Jesus died a humiliating and painful death.
Now many people have been crucified. The Romans crucified thousands of people during their rule. But we know that Jesus spoke the truth about his death saving us from God’s punishment because three days after Jesus died, he rose from the dead. Many have died. But only one has risen – the Son of God. The Saviour, King and Lord.
The resurrection of Jesus means there is no doubt that God’s Kingdom really does bring forgiveness, Hope, Joy Peace and Love for eternity. Everything that Jesus said and showed about God’s Kingdom is true, and Jesus is the King of this Kingdom!
If you believe this to be true today, if you trust that Jesus is not just a baby we tolerate once a year, but the King who can welcome us into God’s kingdom, then you will understand the joy and peace the Angels promised at that first Christmas. New life and love and hope that cannot be packed away and stored in the garage.
Today I invite you to follow Jesus into his Kingdom. Today might be the first time you realise that Jesus shouldn’t be packed away with the Christmas tree. If that’s you why not contact your local Baptist Church, they can help you discover more about the Hope, Joy, Peace and Love that comes when we follow Jesus.