As the winter chill of age seeps into our souls, we cannot help but question the purpose of Christmas. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, and the shattering of friendships push the fleeting joys of hot chocolate, candy canes, and twinkling lights from our hearts. Those identify with the unwanted toys of life wish the holiday would hurry on by.
Christmas appears to be reserved for happy children, newly married couples, and well-loved grandparents.
But Christmas is not earmarked for those with a fairytale life. According to the Bible, baby Jesus came because he knew that singles are lonely, that couples struggle with infertility and that wives bury their husbands. We celebrate the baby in the manger because his birth and the events leading up to his birth merrily shout, “God saves his people.” Just ask Zechariah and Elizabeth.
The gospel of Luke describes the first couple mentioned in the original Christmas story as being “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Yet, they face an excruciating problem. They were old and childless (Lk 1:7). In 4 B.C, Jews viewed “the fruit of the womb [to be] a reward” and childlessness to be a curse (Ps 127:3; Lev. 20:20-21: Jer. 22:30; 2 Sam. 6:23). For the majority of their lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth carried the burdens of grief and social rejection. But despite all their sorrow, the joy of Christmas would be their joy!
Luke records that God sent the angel Gabriel to tell Zechariah that his “prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John (Lk 1:13).” God rescued Zechariah and Elizabeth from their trial. They would have a baby boy and their hearts would be uplifted. The angel tells Zechariah, “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Lk 1:14).
Christmas should resonate with the orphaned, the sorrowful, and the afflicted because it is their holiday. The Christmas celebrates the truth that God recuses his people. The trials that afflict the righteous year after year are not signs of God’s forgetfulness or of God’s animosity but of his blessing. The hearts of God’s people ache today because God intends to do more than they could ever imagine in the future. While God may not heal our infertility, we can be absolute certain he has heard our prayer and that he delays good gifts because he is preparing us for unimaginable blessings that will glorify God. Look at Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s son.
God declares that many will rejoice at John’s birth because God has set John apart for greatness. From conception, John is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and abstains from “wine and strong drink” indicating that his whole life will be devoted to God inspirited ministry (Lk 1:15).
John’s ministry will consist of turning sinners to God as Elijah had done before him. John is coming to challenging men and women to stop limping between the Lord and false gods (1 Kg. 18:21). He is coming to remind men and women “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God (1 Kg.18:39).” He is coming to tell sinners that the wages of sin is death and that the gift of God is eternal life.
John’s ministry will also unite generations and families. Because of sin, the typical baby boomers finds millennials annoying, and average millennials disparages baby boomers as out of touch. But when families find peace of Jesus, the generations unite in peace.
If your family get-togethers are tense or non-existent, Christmas is indeed your season. Christmas reminds us that reconciliation can be accomplished through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even the most dysfunctional families can find peace if they will worship the baby in the manger. How do they get to him?
The disobedient encounter the wisdom of the just (Lk. 1:17). The fool says there is no God. John arrives to remind men and women that there is a God, a just God who will judge the living and the dead. Though all deserve death, the judge of the universe also offers life to all who repent of their sin and follow him, making the message of Christmas the most joyous of all messages. Namely, Jesus “will save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21).”
Though Christmas should stir even the grinchiest of hearts to unspeakable joy, many a weary soul will find rejoicing over the baby in the manger to be quite difficult. They look at the empty chairs at their table, the feel the pains of their disease, and the sense the stares of those around them and conclude that God cannot overcome their circumstance. Zechariah made the same mistake. He liked the idea of having a son but thought the whole affair a touch fanciful because he was after-all an “old man and my wife is advanced in years (Lk 1:18).” Zechariah failed because he lacked faith. John Calvin noted
Those who believe that God will do no more than what seems probable in nature take a narrow and disparaging view of the works of God, as if his hands were limited by our human senses or confined to earthly means.
Many Christian find Christmas joyless because their hearts are faithless. They doubt that God will rescue them and save them. The doubt that God will remove their reproach.
But this is exactly what God does. He rescues his people from trials and from death itself. As Elizabeth said, “he looked on me to take away my reproach among the people.”
Friend if you are lonely, sick, infertile, broke, or sad, embrace Christmas! The day is your day for it promises you that God will remove your reproach! Are you ready to celebrate Christmas?