The New Year has come.
Holiday celebrations have turned into memories, decorations have been packed in storage and the Christmas glow has given way to ordinary surroundings. Some mourn its passing and can’t quite discern why. After all, there is an element of relief from the demands that accompany December. Even so, a Spirit permeates the season like no other time of year and we sense that in returning to life’s routines.
Perhaps post-holiday blues reveal something deeper; a reminder of our need for God and the Gift that was wrapped in swaddling cloths. For some, the Gift has been put away with the decorations, but for many the Gift was never unwrapped. Once the lights are out and the scent of pine is gone, the question lingers: “Does Christmas make a difference?”.
I thought about that as I began to pack away my favorite nativity set. It consisted of four sculpted pieces representing Joseph, Mary and Jesus, with a lamb lying at the feet of the Babe in the manger. Surrounded by greenery and soft lights, the simplicity of that visually Biblical message invited me to think anew the magnitude of the Gift of Jesus. What if He never came? What if there was a complete absence of Christmas and The Christ it represents? Would hope guide our decisions? Would forgiveness be offered? Would truth have a voice? Would faith hold meaning? Would life have purpose? No. On every count it would prove empty.
Jesus’ entrance into the world changed everything. Though the manger was not His beginning, it was the offer of a new beginning for us. The Gospel of John makes that clear: “In the beginning was the Word and Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. … He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. … But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 10, 12, 14 (NKJV)
Christmas marks a pivotal moment in history and reminds us that we are not alone. God who made the heavens and the earth loves His creation deeply and revealed that love by clothing The Son in flesh and stepping into our world with forgiveness in His heart and truth on His lips. Thirty-three years later, Jesus carried that love to a cross where He willingly bore our sins, paid the wages of death they demanded, then rose and secured salvation.
Yes, Christmas indeed makes a difference. When the lights are gone and the decorations are down, those who embrace the true meaning of the season can transition without melancholy. Regardless of the challenges that come from personal trials or world events, there stands the King of kings and Lord of lords drawing ever closer to His return for His own.
Are you among them? If so, the future is filled with promise because He came. His Light shines in our darkness and illumines the New Year with hope!