For many, the Christmas season is not a time of joy and peace as we might expect. Rather it is a time of great grief and sorrow. For example, this could the first Christmas without a loved one, it might be a time of additional stress on an already difficult financial situation, or maybe it is just another reminder that a family is deeply broken. None of these situations conjure images of cheerfulness, rather they invoke thoughts of pain and distress. However, if this is a season where pain and turmoil seem to be your only companions, then have hope. Christmas is meant for you. Christmas is the inauguration of hope, to a seemingly hopeless people.
A time of silence
Since our bibles are organized in such a way that when you finish reading Malachi, you are able to turn the page and read the name of Jesus in the first verse of the next book, we can loose the wideness of the gap between these two books. Most scholars today agree that the Intertestamental Period lasted approximately 400 years. During this time, we have little to no evidence that God spoke to his people as he had done through the prophets. The tension during this time is created by God sending his people into exile while simultaneously making a promise to send one like Elijah. So for the Israelite people, this was a time of uncertainty because they knew God’s promises, but had yet to see them fulfilled. The New Testament open with Israel under the control of Rome and people waiting to hear from God.
A time of fear
Fear encompasses the beginning to the New Testament. There is a level of fear and unrest surrounding Rome and when angels appear to people, their first reaction is fear. Chronologically, the first dialog we have recorded in the New Testament is the angel speaking to Zechariah. His first words are “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:13). This phrase is used repeatedly as the angels appear to different people to announce the coming of this child. Ears that have grown accustomed to the silence of God are now ringing as the glory of God is proclaimed by angels. Even after this pronouncement, and even after the birth of Christ himself, this is a still an environment of fear. We are introduced to Herod who seeks to kill this coming King, Joseph and Mary are forced to flee to Egypt, and Herod commits the slaughter of countless baby boys.
A time of hope
When we look at all the circumstances surrounding this first Christmas, we see it is not the peaceful and serene time that is sometimes portrayed. Rather, it is an accurate representation of the real reason that Christ came in the first place. We live in a world of brokenness because of sin, and the eternal Son of God took on our weakness so that he might mend our brokenness. So when you look around and you see death, decay, and disorder, remember that these are the reasons that we need Christmas. These circumstances are all indicative of a world that has been separated from God and Christmas is the signal that God does not sit idly by but has come to address our greatest need reconciliation to himself. Many times we talk about this reconciliation in a holistic sense, but it also has implications for your particular situations. This means that if we have hope in Christ, then through Christ we can hope in spite of our circumstances. So have hope brothers and sisters, God has not been silent and he has called us not to be afraid, because his name is Immanuel, God with us.