In the frantic preparations for this holiday season and all the activities accompanying it, I hope you won’t lose sight of the big picture.
When Jesus came, everything changed. Oh sure, to those who saw Him walking around it seemed nothing had changed. Rome was still oppressing them, preventing them from running their own country. Its power was so all-encompassing there was no reason to hope one lowly rabbi could make a difference.
The ultimate expression of “appearances can be deceiving” was played out in Israel as Jesus ministered there. At one point He cries out (I imagine in frustration): “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:35-36 NIV, emphasis added).
God took the initiative. He came into our hopeless mess with the intention to bring change. He saw our need and entered into our world to meet it. Now He invites us to come to Him. To anyone who would come and believe He promised real change – for now and for eternity. But has anything really changed?
When we look at our world today we might see it as the first-century Jews did. We are apt to focus on the violence, hatred, oppression, and injustice. Governments are corrupt and those in power continue to grind down the poor and helpless. Sin abounds. Nothing seems to check its growing influence and means of expression. The needs are overwhelming, and as Christians we might feel like the five loaves and two fish … Surely there are too many wrongs to right. Who are we among so many? What difference can we make?
Often the promise made by the angelic host on the night of Jesus’ birth seems to ring hollow.
“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. … Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-12, 14 NKJV).
In the face of all we see, we have a choice to make.
We can focus on the sin or we can focus on the Savior. We can come to Him and live in the reality of His peace (seeking to extend this peace to those around us) or we can throw in the towel and figure that Jesus’ coming didn’t matter in the end. All goes on as before.
I like how Henri Nouwen puts it: “The world and the reality of daily events are there to be read with the mind and heart of God.”
But what does this mean? Essentially it means to believe what God says about the world around us, choosing to agree with Him even when appearances seem to contradict His truth. He doesn’t see things the way we do. His view is longer, clearer, and far more comprehensive. He sees the big picture in a way we can’t, given our human frailties.
He says we can continue to live knowing Jesus makes a difference – both in our own lives and in the lives of the people around us.
Yes, things look dark in the world today. But Jesus has come and He will come again. He is the answer to the many manifestations of sin we see around us. So we should confidently continue to lift Him up … that He might draw all men to himself (John 12:32).
This is the joyous message of Christmas. Jesus came … and He can change everything when we yield to Him. His death and resurrection were not in vain. He accomplished all He came to do. And now we can serve Him with the hope that our labor will not be vain (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9-10).
Veni; vidi; vici. “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Although this boast was made by Julius Caesar in 47 BC, it is far truer for Jesus Christ. His was not a temporary grab for power, and unlike Caesar, He has not been defeated by any earthly or heavenly principality or power. Jesus’ kingdom is “an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him” (Daniel 7:27 NIV). We do not see the effects of Christ’s victory fully expressed on earth yet, but we can serve Him knowing that one day we will.
Nouwen writes, “Working for social change means to make visible in time and place that which has already been accomplished in principle by God himself.”
Christians are the most blessed people on earth! We reign with Christ, the sovereign and all-powerful King! We can work for social change to become visible because it does not depend upon earthly wisdom, power, or resources. Through Christ, God has defeated sin and death, delivering us from spiritual condemnation. And now we can offer this free gift to everyone we encounter! We have been “deputized” to represent Him in a world that cries out for justice, freedom, peace, and love.
“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6, NKJV).
This Christmas (and throughout the New Year) let’s focus on what Jesus’ coming means. It made all the difference! The truth of His coming can still change hearts and lives as people come to Him. We need to remind ourselves to read the reality of daily events with the mind and heart of God. Not just at Christmas time but throughout the year to come.