I was once a staunch supporter of “No Christmas before Thanksgiving because it will diminish how special Christmas is.” If that is where you are today, I completely understand – but right now I need more of Christmas, not less.
In the last few weeks, my family has dealt with the loss of beloved pets, physical pains and anxieties that rob kids (and by extension parents) of sleep, and, as I went in for a fairly routine medical procedure, an unlikely issue that could have cost me my life. That issue left me hospitalized for a week, and now requires a multi-week recovery. All of this occurred in November (the hardest month of the school semester) of 2020 as we struggle with everything we’ve all already been struggling with.
So, what do you say in the midst of this aching world when your children are reeling (and so are you)? You proclaim the hope and glory of God. You tell yourself and your family the truth. You tell them about the God of steadfast love and mercy who can be trusted with all things to the end of time. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing has been my soundtrack for these conversations.
The entire Gospel hope of God is contained in these lyrics and themes. Christmas is one of the crescendos in God’s singular story of love and redemption. The fulfillment of the promise from Genesis 3:15, that sin and death will be defeated once and for all from the seed of woman, is inaugurated and declared by a host of singing messengers from the throne of God. It’s all true! He has come! God is with us and has come to save! His promises are sure. “Glory to the newborn King: peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Perhaps the greatest comfort is found in the second stanza. This is where I look and point my family to in the times of suffering and hardship. Here we get to sing about what kind of God we have:
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
“Late in time behold him come”
It’s a long time from the promise of salvation to the coming of the Messiah. That’s scary for us. The unknown can be terrifying. Navigating current fears and hardships while more unknown difficulties lie ahead can paralyze us with fear and anxiety. This year has made that more of a visceral reality for our kids than anything else in their lifetime, but . . . he has come.
Century upon century, God’s people heard the promises of hope, and yet lived and died waiting for their savior to come. The entire Old Testament points to the promise of salvation coming from God, perhaps no book more than Isaiah and those glorious chapters 52 and 53. Yet, it was almost 800 years after Isaiah until that promise was fulfilled.
How fearful it would be if it were up to us, our plans, and our timelines. How hopeless. But God! The great words of Scripture. But God is faithful to the end of the ages and his promises are sure and true because of him and him alone. We do not have to fear or doubt due to our lack of understanding, because he has shown us what is true. Part of the Christmas celebration must be seeing that God is working an eternal plan of salvation that has been at work from the beginning and can be trusted to the end – behold, he has come!
When we fear and doubt, when our kids have no idea what their future will look like, we point them to their God who is always faithful and has never let his people down, not ever, no matter what it looked like from their perspective.
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see”
Let us remember that our God put on our flesh, and all that comes with that. He put on growing pains and hunger, not to mention nerve endings that register the pain of burns, bruises, fevers, and every other pain. He did not keep himself from all of our hurt, but fully entered into our suffering in order to rescue us.
He did not even save himself from emotional pain. See God in the flesh. See him in the midst of godly, sinless fear and anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane. See him as the reality of enduring all condemnation for the sin of every believer drives him to his knees in prayer, racking his body with physical suffering so tremendous that his sweat became like great drops of blood.
He knows your suffering. Your great high priest put on your flesh and lived your suffering so that he could redeem you. He sympathizes with your every pain and sorrow in every respect. You are never alone. Your God is with you and knows you to the uttermost.
“Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.”
God isn’t just with us and he doesn’t just understand us and save us. He is pleased to do so. God’s purpose from beginning to end has been to redeem us. He has done so, and he is pleased to do so. This is the kind of God who sits on his throne and is with us until the end of time. When we fear, when we hurt, when sickness and death steal and destroy, we must remember who our God is and why we can trust in him.
He did not come as the Lord of Hosts, with uncountable angel army to crush his enemies, though he could have. No, he put on our flesh and he sent his angels to sing to poor shepherds in fields where they lay, announcing that the savior had come. He came to reconcile sinners to God, to conquer sin and death once and for all, and it pleases him to do so! Rejoice!
Our God is faithful to save. Christmas, the incarnation of Christ, is a celebration of the entire story of God – the entire story of creation and redemption. As a parent, I want to show my children the love of God he has shown us in Christ. I want to show them His love is personal and beautifully costly, and yet He is making all things new. I want to sing it to them as his angels sing it to us. Christmas is God’s steadfast, pursuing love and mercy to the end of the ages on full display, and he sends his messengers to sing it to us. He sings love directly to our every fear and sorrow. Praise God, and Merry Christmas.