Christmas season is well under way in Edinburgh. The Christmas market is up and running, the days have shortened and we’re left figuring out what to buy family and friends for gifts.
With all the stress, the changes in our routines, seeing family and travelling I think it’s fair to say that Christmas can be an emotional time. Christmas is a time for slowing down and sometimes this means the hard things we’ve faced in the year catch up with our heads and hearts.
I’ve been reading the Christmas account in Matthew’s gospel and I was blown away by something that I haven’t taken a lot of notice of before: mourning and grieving are part of the Christmas narrative.
See, Jesus’ been born in Bethlehem. The shepherds have visited Him. A group of wise men from the East have noticed the star and make their way to find the new King. They stop off at the palace in Jerusalem because they figure that’s a good place for a King to be born.
However, Herod was the king in Judah at the time and he does not appreciate the rumour of a new-born king and he was so upset to hear that these men from the East were looking for a new-born king. When they figure out that it’s actually Bethlehem that the Messiah would be born in King Herod asks the men to find the new baby king and let report back to him where He is. God redirects these wise men away from Herod on their return journey home. And this is Herod’s response:
“When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’” Matthew 2:16-18
Now, this wasn’t out of character for Herod.
History shows us that he was a bit of a monster. He assassinated many of the Sanhedrin (the supreme court of the Jews). He had 300 of his court officials executed. He murdered his wife, her mother and three of his own sons and when he was dying he arranged for many noblemen to be murdered when his own death was announced.
It’s shocking for us to read that he ordered the death of all the babies in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.
I can’t remember seeing a nativity play with this part of the Christmas narrative. It’s usually the shepherds with tea towels on their heads and kids fighting over who’s going to be Mary and Joseph.
In different seasons in life weeping and grieving are absolutely necessary, and for many people Christmas is not always the most wonderful time of the year as we wish it were.
Let me share 3 principles with you to have hope this Christmas with some timely applications for this season.
- It’s okay to not be okay
It’s okay to acknowledge sorrow and grief when it happens. There are real pain points and real sources of sorrow to deal with.
“In this fallen world, sadness is an act of sanity, our tears the testimony of the sane.” Zack Eswine
How often do we go through stuff in life and it shouldn’t have happened but it did? Why is there depression? Why cancer? Why do I face injustice at work? Why is there tensions in a relationship?
God understands the depth of our pain. He acknowledges it when pain hits, when we grieve, even when hope seems to evaporate, but He also wants us to know all is not lost. That’s the very purpose of the Christmas story was for Jesus to come and bring restoration and hope to all of humanity.
- Find your comfort in God
“Our hope is not the absence of regret, or misery or doubt or lament, but the presence of Jesus.” Zack Eswine (Spurgeon’s sorrows)
What we need is the presence of Jesus.
We need to be real. We need to be authentic.
About life. About our hurts. And we also need to be real about our hope in Jesus Christ.
There is real comfort to be experienced, real joy and real peace. It requires us to trust and lean into God. As we go through the good, the bad and the ugly, Jesus invites us to come to Him with our pain and find our comfort in Him.
We’re designed to experience and process pain but we’re not made to carry pain. When we do, it’s too heavy a burden to bear. Jesus invites each one of us this Christmas to bring our burdens to Him:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
- Carry a perspective of hope
Over the past 12 years I’ve struggled with depression. There have been times where it feels like there is no hope. I’ve learned that I must trust God’s Word over my feelings and as I have done that I’ve discovered that it’s possible to have hope for the future, not based on my feelings, but based on God’s solid truth!
There will be a day that has been determined by God when He says ‘enough’. He will wipe away every tear, there will be no more death, no more crying, no more sickness and no more pain. I cannot wait.
Put it into practice
- Think of others this December
Maybe this is going to be a hard Christmas for you or maybe not. However, you will know someone who fill find it tough. Who can you get alongside and encourage this December? We need to be understanding of one another in the busyness of December.
- Take time this Christmas to know God in a deeper way
We plan to spend time with family and catch up with friends. How about planning to spend time with God?
- Reflect on this past year
If it’s needed then give yourself permission to grieve and find your comfort in God. Invite Him to keep working in you and to provide comfort and healing where you need it, and to give you hope for 2020 and beyond.
I do believe the best is ahead when we fix our eyes on King Jesus.
Thank you so much for reading. I’d love to hear from you, are you looking forward to Christmas? What do you find difficult in this season? How do you find hope when life is tough? Leave a comment. And if you found this encouraging and helpful I’d love it if you were to share it on social media. Dan 🙂