Read Matthew 2:1-18
What did the ‘first Christmas’ look like?
Most of the Christmas cards I see today are filled with family, snow, Christmas trees, gifts, Santa, and, of course, the infamous nativity scene. Angels above, shepherds worshipping, the Magi kings presenting their gifts, and the new parents (Mary and Joseph) doting over baby Jesus. “No crying He makes”, as one popular Christmas carol likes to tell us. It’s a happy and peaceful picture.
However, the reality of that first Christmas was not peaceful. I mean, I get it. Reality is rarely marketable… but there is such depth to the first Christmas story, that I often find myself wondering what it would look like depicted on a Christmas card.
A peculiar mission
Let’s take the Magi kings for example. Foreigners from the East (former Babylon), bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These outsider mystics are on a mission. Their pursuit is to honour, celebrate, and worship the “King of the Jews”.
Their peculiar mission, however, encounters a kingdom of evil at work. They “disturb” (Matthew 2:3) the current, imposter king of Israel. Known as a tyrant, King Herod’s “disturbance” becomes Israel’s disturbance to shoulder. The insecure but powerful king is about to unleash the kind of evil that built his corrupt kingdom in the first place. Deception, manipulation, and infanticide – all adding to the weight and bearing of the terrible crown that he wears.
Again, not marketable material for a Christmas card.
Hope breaks through
The birth of Jesus, however, brings hope. The same divine star that leads the foreigner kings, takes another form to divinely intervene through dreams. In the secret of the night, equipped only with the clothes on their backs (and the gifts from the foreigners) Joseph, Mary, and the toddler Jesus flee their homeland, seeking asylum in Egypt. Jesus spends His formative childhood years as a refugee.
Through circumstances of darkness and evil – infanticide, deception, poverty, and pain – God’s resilient love intervenes. And His love brings hope.
In our Big Hearted Gift range this year, there is a new gift available – a blanket. This Big Hearted Gift helps fund important work to support Syrian refugees in the Middle East. It is love in action for women who have lived through the atrocities of ISIS, witnessed the murder of their loved ones, and experienced the burning of their homes. Darkness and evil – hell on earth.
I heard these stories firsthand during my visit to Lebanon this year. Such experiences are enough to render even the strongest person hopeless. But through the faithful work of our Christian partner in the field, these women were empowered to learn sewing skills, a useful way of providing for their families. Through the project, dignity is restored, trauma is addressed, and (most importantly) hope is built. Beautifully, the very blankets that these women are helping to create are being passed on to the 1.5 million other refugees living in Lebanon, so they can survive the harsh winters.
Love giving hope.
Heaven invades the hells of the earth
When Jesus was born, love came into the world as weak as a baby. Jesus allowed himself to be incarnated into a fragile and poor environment. But because of Jesus’s obedience and love, we can be confident that God is indeed with us!
In the midst of the evil schemes of men, in the corrupt systems of the powerful, and in absolutely hopeless situations – God intervenes. Just over two thousand years ago, His love overcame darkness. His love will continue to overcome darkness. And in the midst of it all, Jesus will cause hope to rise.
Thank you, Father, for your unrelenting love! Today, please slow down my life’s pace. Help me to see and hear where you are intervening – where you are bringing hope. Please open my heart to join you in your work of love and hope today.