Christmas is one of the most festive times of the year. Bright lights on Orchard Road, people giving gifts, all the eating and holidays make it a season to long for. Yet it is during this festive season that we are sometimes more aware of the darkness in the world.
According to the US National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year when psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report more patients suffering from depression. 1Hospitals and police forces record higher incidences of suicide and attempted suicide.
Why do so many people dread Christmas? One of the reasons given is that Christmas appears to trigger in people excessive reFlection about the inadequacies of life. Some people feel very lonely at Christmas because they miss loved ones they have lost, or they are going through a tough period of unemployment. Others fear the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances whom they would rather avoid. Broken lives, broken relationships — at times life can seem very dark indeed.
But for Christians, Christmas is also a reminder that God has shone His light into this darkness. The prophet Isaiah in speaking of the coming of Jesus, describes him as a great light dawning in a land of deep darkness.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
During Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, God’s Son who became man and entered our world. Yet he died a cruel death on the cross for our sin.
God created us to be in charge of the world – to rule, care for and be responsible of the world – but always under His authority, honouring Him and obeying His instructions. But the sad truth is, we reject God by doing things our own way. We either ignore him and just get on with our own lives; or we disobey his instructions for living in his world; or we shake our puny Fists in his face and tell him to get lost.
However when we reject God, whether violently or through apathy, we are all rebels, because we don’t live God’s way. This rebellious self-sufFicient attitude is what the Bible calls ‘sin’. The trouble is, in rejecting God we make a mess not only of our own lives, but of society and the world. This is the present darkness that Christmas sometimes reveals.
But that’s not all. God will call us to account for our actions. He will pass judgement on our rebellion against Him. The good news is this: we, the unrighteous deserve to die for our sins but Jesus, the righteous one, has died in our place. Here is how the Bible puts it:
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God….” (1 Peter 3:18)
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, Christians can look forward to a bright future. The Bible pictures our joyous future as a wedding banquet when we will be with God forever (Rev 19:6-7). It will be pure and everlasting joy because God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev 7:17).
So while Christmas reminds us of the present darkness, that we still live in a world tainted by sin, remembering that God did something — He sent His Son into our world to save us — also points us forward to the light, when we will be with Jesus for eternity.
How will we respond to this? Glen Scrivener in his book Four Kinds of Christmas speaks of four responses that we can have to the darkness. 2We can either choose to be a Scrooge, a Shopper, a Santa or the Stable. Each of this explores an approach to life, a way of handling the brokenness of this world.
A Scrooge acknowledges the darkness in the world. But that’s all there is to it. It’s darkness now, and darkness is to come. So get used to it and live your life accordingly. But this position is untenable. We know that we are made for joy, because we long for things to be right.
A Shopper says, ‘The light is going out, darkness is coming, so let’s celebrate while we can.’ His mantra is: let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. But we know that we are made for hope; we dare to imagine a forever.
A Santa chooses not to believe in the darkness. He chooses to believe all is light. But then this Flies in the face of reality and the suffering all around us. No, we cannot deny the truth of our plight.
The Stable says, ‘Darkness is real, but the Light has dawned.’ Here we face the truth of our darkness, yet joyfully hope in the light.
So which kind of Christmas are you?
If you would like to be the Stable and respond to God’s gift in Jesus, you can speak to God. Here is a prayer that you can speak to God to receive Jesus:
It’s hard in the dark. And I recognise that there’s darkness in me too. I’m sorry for my selUishness and sin. Thank you for Jesus – your gift. Thank you that He came to live my life here in the darkness. Thank you that He died my death on the cross and thank you that He rose again. I now receive Him into my life. May He be my Lord, my guide and my friend forever.
Accept me as your child, Uill me with your Spirit and help me to walk with Jesus and His people through the darkness and into your eternal light. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you prayed this prayer or if you would like more information about Jesus, please approach the friend who has invited you to church today, or contact me @ 91821644 / firstname.lastname@example.org so we can meet up to talk more about the next stage of your Christian journey.
If you are the Stable, let us remember our family and friends who have yet to know Jesus. Let us pray for them and offer them the true light of Christmas. Your pastor and brother, Yuk Yee