So now we wind down this adverse 2020 year with the beginning of the Advent season. But something’s changed – or has it really? ◊
We move right from Thanksgiving weekend and headlong into the Advent season. The year is winding down quickly now with anticipated holiday cheer and the beauty of Christmas. But it does seem different this year. Covid lockdowns, illness, deaths, fears, racial strife, riots/protests, and election uncertainty, all stand to taint our hearts, minds, and attitudes toward this beloved time of year.
Many may roll into this Christmas season with less enthusiasm, less money, more fear and uncertainty and doubt about their own future and the future of the world. Some would encourage us all to cancel Christmas and face the facts of a changed world, whether we like it or not.
Should we care less? Of course not.
Yes, the world has changed, but actually, not really when you consider the plight of human lives that work so hard and struggle to survive, or search so hard for meaning and purpose in vacant lives that are often left to wonder why they even bother at all.
The world needs hope, and peace, and love, and mysteries solved.
An Advent Season of Mystery
The next 4 weeks lead up to Christmas Day and a global celebration and recognition of the birth of One Life that changed everything. You and your family may celebrate with Advent candles, calendars, fasts, family activities, foods, gatherings, worship services, and other traditions that count down to December 25, the birthdate of Jesus Christ.
Or perhaps you are one that does not feel compelled to celebrate anything in this year of unrest and confusion. Or perhaps you are one who simply does not believe in the focus of this season.
I simply look at Christmas time as a season of wonder and mystery.
Actually, a mystery that should be on the minds of any one who seeks truth and understanding and answers to the big questions in life. And we all do, or should, particularly in 2020, this year of Covid and international social havoc.
Consider this Advent mystery and ask yourself if you have adequate answers to the key questions of the season.
The Advent Mystery
What was God up to? What was God doing after 400 years of silence with his people, the Hebrew nation? Actually, no one knew as the Hand of God was being played out right before them. All the people associated with the very first Christmas had very little information about what was really going on.
It was a mystery, a compelling mystery involving confused shepherds in the area around Bethlehem, about 5 miles outside an unaware city of Jerusalem. Certainly, Mary and Joseph had the inside story of a coming baby. Zachariah and his wife, Elizabeth, had more than an inkling themselves. But the true impact and long-term significance of the predicted birth was like an unfolding dream. The story involved their harrowing 70 mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a real and dangerously evil Jewish King Herod, star-following Magi (distinguished foreigners) from the east, their traveling entourages and a disinterested but ruthless Roman government authority.
The situation was bleak and tenuous. Even a bit hopeless.
Light in the Darkest Night
We now know how the story ends. But who was this baby? The baby born is Jesus, the Christ, the promised Messiah for the nation of Israel per the Hebrew prophets. He is the promised seed at the time of the curse in Genesis 3 and the blessings to “all the nations” further expressed to Abraham and his descendants throughout Genesis.
Yes, the first Christmas night turned out well despite uncertainty, danger, fear and hardship. None of the participants – even the prophets – knew how it was going to all really play out in their own times, let alone down through human history. But God knew and He plays His hand in ways we cannot understand or fathom, even in times of great distress:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8
In fact, the Savior of the world, Jesus, God incarnate, survived and thrived for 33 years. His perfect sacrificial death atoned a Holy God and changed the course of human history and our spiritual destiny.
The story does ends very well.
Do you want to be intrigued and challenged in your belief system? Do yourself a favor and read or reread the first 2 chapters of the Gospel of Matthew and Luke over the next few weeks from the New Testament. Study them and assess what is going on and referenced. Look up connecting verses and understanding the context of all that is transpiring here. It’s a fascinating story of mystery, danger, fear, trust, and love.
It’s the story about God’s good will and purpose played out for all of mankind.
It will put 2020 in perspective and address larger questions of purpose and meaning in a world that may have lost sight of real purpose, meaning and hope.
May your Christmas season begin this week with new eyes, heart, and mind.
Are you focused on the right things this holiday season?
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21