Are visions of sugarplums dancing in your head yet?
We are in the midst of that season of imagination, of wonderment, and, of course, of desperately rushing around at the last minute hoping a good gift idea for your mother-in-law magically pops into your head.
Besides the rush, Christmas can often be quite a peaceful time, at least here in the West. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, it gets dark early, so Christmas lights are cheery and brighten the neighbourhood as we go for walks.
People get time off work and can relax, laugh with their kids and families.
We often get to eat really great food (even if we have to also cook it!).
But for many of us, this Christmas season brings a lot of uncertainty too.
Where do you go when it feels like your church may not be a safe place for you or your kids, because it focuses on making sure that only men get a voice? Or it covers up for abuse and doesn’t take concerns about domestic violence seriously enough?
What do you do when you desperately want to hold on to Jesus, but all the big Christian organizations around you that are sending you fund-raising emails sound like they’re fighting for things that don’t look like Jesus?
I think the Christmas season can answer some of those questions.
Just imagine how small Mary and Joseph must have felt, with Herod coming after them and wise men visiting them from afar. God, when He chose to step down into humanity and make the biggest change ever seen, didn’t come to the Sanhedrin or to Herod, but to a young, unknown woman in a small village.
Just imagine how the shepherds felt, being visited by angels when shepherds were often ignored by those in polite company. Yet they were given the celestial concert–not the leaders of the synagogues.
Or fast forward a few years.
Just imagine how the disciples must have felt after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. Sure, they had the Holy Spirit. But they were still only a few, and the whole world was coming against them. People didn’t see the truth. How could such a small band of people spread the message of truth and hope?
Yet Jesus entrusted it to them.
Just imagine how Christmas must have felt in 1527, or 1532, for followers of Jesus. Martin Luther had nailed his theses to the Wittenberg door a decade prior, and many were listening to his message, but where were they now to go worship? There weren’t really new churches! And if you were a believer outside of Luther’s main towns, you’d feel quite lonely.
But you don’t know that your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, are going to have a very different religious landscape, because huge changes are coming (and much bloodshed too).
It seems like God’s modus operandi is to have the foolish things of the world confound the wise, to have the small overcome the large.
We serve a God who tells us to rejoice in the day of small things. (Zechariah 4:10)
One of the things I’m rejoicing about is this community.
No, the biggest names in evangelicalism aren’t listening to our message. But people are. You are. That’s why you’re here!
And when God shakes things up, He starts at the margins, with the unsuspecting, with those who look meek. They certainly don’t look dangerous!
Yet it is through those who are weak, those who are small, those who are often unorganized, that God does major work.
You may feel small and insignificant right now, and feel like the task is too big.
This is a good time of year to feel that way, because the Christmas story reminds us that we are not alone at feeling small.
Yet it also tells us one another thing.
The Christmas message is a simple but profound one: Emmanuel, God with us.
When we feel small, when we feel alone, when we feel like things are helpless, we can remember, Emmanuel, God with us.
Merry Christmas, everyone.