I think of the headlines that have streamed across our televisions recently, the news that has flashed "breaking" on our computer screens and smartphones in past weeks: the acts of terror in Paris, the shootings on college campuses, the murder of a pregnant woman who was a pastor's wife, the violence and rioting as black protesters line the streets. Sometimes it is too much for the soul to take.
In my humanness, I often ask: how can we be so terrible? We inflict such pain on one another in this world! In the name of selfishness, we take out our injustices and our anger on those who instead are in need of our love. Our war in the soul with God breeds an environment for us to be at war with each other. And now we find ourselves in this broken world, hurting and alone. For all of the resolutions we make to begin anew, we have failed to make the one resolution that will change the world, one life at a time: the resolution to become open to love! To open ourselves to the Grace and the Savior who can make all things new...even the things most injurious, most tragic, most hopeless.
I find it odd that all of this chaos has occurred leading into what many consider to be the most hopeful and special season of the year. There are some who are seeking to destroy the optimism that there can be peace on earth - because of Him. And I think God's enemies are truly out for the innocent's blood, doing all they can to stop His message from reaching the hearts of those who still seek Him.
For weeks now, I have craved the spirit of Christmas. The lights and the traditions that speak of stability and hope in a world gone mad. I have wanted to break out the carols, sing of light and love and the King come to an earth in need of Him desperately. In recent days, I have come to realize that this year, we need Christmas more than ever. Not the holiday itself, not the shopping and rushing about, not even the decorations and traditions and all that make it what it is. No...we need Christmas because we need Him! Apart from Easter, it is the only holiday that directs us to the place where redemption occurred. Think about it: God could've ended human history as soon as our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden. God could've said, "I'm done with the human race. My experiment of a paradise on earth did not work. That's it. No hope for you!" But instead, He immediately set in motion a plan to redeem that which did not deserve to be restored. To rescue those whose hearts were set against Him. Radical! The manger was only the beginning of that plan which would culminate in the death of sin and triumph of Jesus on the cross. Christmas reminds us of this story. It calls us to reflect on why we are even alive at all. In the midst of the craziness of the holidays, Christmas lures us to the fact that all this messiness, all this shame, all this sin-inflicted misery does not have to have the final word. We have hope that transcends this desperation. Because God was willing to step down into human flesh, to identify with our loneliness, our filth, and our brokenness, we were given a second chance at life and the enjoyment of beauty. The appreciation of His renewal. The reveling in His victory. Christmas is Jesus.
As Advent begins and the longing for the expected King fills the air, I pray that somewhere, somehow, He may find Himself a home in the hearts of those who need Him most this season. Just maybe we can dream big and pray for His peace to touch the hearts of those evil terrorists who think that they will gain His approval by their cruel actions; just maybe we can pray that forgiveness may be given to the one who took the pastor's wife's life and that of their baby on the way; just maybe we can pray that love be granted to the protesters lining the streets so that they may understand that hate does no good but love - His love - conquers all. Perhaps this Christmas season, we can ask God to send us the ability to see the hurting around us as He sees them, to love and reach out as He did. To be to a hurting world what He is to us.
God didn't leave this fallen earth hopeless. His gift of salvation is evidence of that. Let us then celebrate this glorious truth! Let us prepare Him room in our hearts that the Lord may enter. Let us not be as the cold-hearted innkeeper who turned away His chance at redemption but rather, let us throw open the door and say, "Come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee!"
Fear and despair may attempt to ruin this time of year for all of us, angry mobs may try to destroy the life and the love we crave so greatly, but the Savior is bigger than all that. He will still come - even if turned away by some souls who know not their need. That is why we need Christmas: because we need Him to drive away the darkness and to bring the light. With open arms, I choose to welcome Him. I choose to say, "Hasten Thy coming, dear Lord, and let there be joy!"