Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:32-33 (ESV)
On that glorious night in the fields outside of Bethlehem, God chose a most improbable group of people to hear a most important proclamation.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Having made it through the past 21 months, the mere thought of God declaring a message of good news that will bring joy to us all is very appealing. After all, it is easier to deal with times of struggle when you’re able to look forward and know that there is a promise of better days ahead. I think that’s a big part of what has made dealing with the pandemic and the crises it has created so difficult. It just feels as if there is no end in sight.
So, this year, more than ever, we need that good news.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
It is truly amazing to think that God’s love for us runs so deeply that He would send His Son into our world to save each one of us from sin. We deserve the death that comes as the consequence of our sinfulness. Thankfully, God has a different plan. Through Jesus’s life, death & resurrection, we have been gifted something we could never accomplish, forgiveness of our sins and a restored relationship with the Father.
“And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Say what? We’ll find Him where? He’ll be wearing what? You did say this was the Son of God, right? For us here on earth who understand the lifestyles of kings, this is not how royals are to be born. Where’s the pomp? Where’s the excess, the exquisite accommodations that are afforded to royalty? Leaders like to demonstrate their humility by claiming to be “one of the people.” These sentiments tend to be a lot of bluster without much substance. However, in this case, the only blustery thing about Christ’s birth was the wind passing through the stable where He was born. Jesus our Messiah, true God and true man, here to dwell among us so that He could ultimately save us.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!’”
There it is. The second most important gift we receive from this message. Nothing compares to forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. But for now, in this moment, we will take some peace on earth. Life in modern society has left us all tired and frustrated. Every day brings a new slate of challenges, struggles, arguments, and attacks. It’s exhausting. It’s discouraging. It leads many of us to experience physical and emotional depths that can distract us from our work, bring stress into our relationships, as well as take a toll on our health. We all experience these feelings from time to time and to varying degrees, especially around the holidays when so much more is expected of us.
In these moments, it is crucial to remember the words of Christ from John 16. Jesus is speaking to his disciples (and to us) in preparation for his death. In verse 32, He describes what will happen to him after his arrest. The disciples will grow fearful and will hide, choosing to save their own skin over standing with Jesus against His persecutors. As He faces abandonment from His followers, Jesus will know that He is not alone. God the Father will be with Him through it all. Perhaps He said this to reassure Himself, knowing what He was about to face. There is no doubt in my mind that He is speaking to us, equipping us with the certainty that God will never leave us. In fact, Jesus affirms this in the words of verse 33.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Could there be a better reminder than this? Satan and our sinful world are going to do everything they can to distract us from these words. But distract is all they can do. They have already been defeated. Christ’s bold proclamation is our truth. Through it, we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we will never be lost, never destroyed. In Christ we find true peace.
It is my solemn prayer that you will feel this peace throughout your celebration of the Savior’s birth. May He strengthen you to face the challenges in your life. May He surround you with believers to support you, angels to protect you, and the Holy Spirit to empower you that you may share this message to others in word and deed this Christmas and throughout the year to come.