December 2018: Thought For The Month
Joy to the world
I love Christmas. People seem to be more willing to extend a hand to their fellow neighbour, communities come together to switch on the Christmas lights, sing carols and take part in Nativity plays, families travel to be together, and then there’s the food, music, presents, and the family traditions. Despite some of the difficulties in the world, joy springs up and hope is realised.
For me, what makes this time so special is relationships. Deep down in the heart of every man, woman and child is the need to be loved and to love. To be part of a family or to participate in a community puts a real sense of well-being and purpose in a person. It’s what makes this time so difficult for those who have lost loved ones, or for those who will sleep homeless in our cities this Christmas, or for those who have lost or broken relationships. You only have to go as far as Facebook to see how important relationships are to people, based as the site is on the need to stay connected. A Christmas movie favourite of mine is ‘Love Actually.’ It’s all about the ups and downs of relationships and observing the outpouring of love at places like the arrivals area at Heathrow.
When I go to the Boxing Day football match at St. Andrews I get a sense of what will happen at football stadiums up and down the land: that feeling of belonging - that these are my people, these are our songs, this is our history, and that this is our shared identity. In reality of course, we may have more in common with a rival team supporter with whom we have a better friendship, but that’s all part of the fun of relationships!
So why can this time bring ‘Joy to the world’? Simply a promise was made from God to man that through the seed of Eve a saviour would come, and then through the lineage of Abraham the nations of the world would be blessed. The Israelites were expecting a certain type of King and Saviour to rescue them from the occupation and rule of the Roman Empire (and in fact, the previous Greek, Syrian and Babylonian Empires that they had been oppressed by.) They desired a Messiah that would bring back to them a Kingdom like King David established. But such a Messiah never came.
However, in a small town called Bethlehem a little over 2000 years ago, a child was born who grew in stature, wisdom and favour with God. As an adult, enabled by the Holy Spirit, Jesus began to challenge every expectation and religious way of the Israelite community. He was a humble man who served those around him, but he was mighty in words and actions. Though he didn’t attempt to overthrow the Roman Empire, His words transformed the lives of all around him and what He established was a community of believers - God’s Kingdom - that even today continues to grow and outlast all the empires of history.
This time of the year is Joy to the world because a Saviour has come and given all people the opportunity to receive Him as Lord. Through Jesus Christ alone forgiveness of sins is given and a relationship with God can be found. Isaac Watts penned my favourite Christmas Hymn in 1719, ‘Joy to the world’. Have a wonderful Christmas and do come and visit one of your local Churches soon, we would love to see you.