For many people, the year 2020 has been a year of discovery, rediscovery, and reprioritization. The world shuddered and shook loose some of the scales that obscured the truth. As the year comes to an end and Christians gather to celebrate the birth of our savior, we are again reminded of what is really important.
Driven by our innate human enthusiasm for celebrations, Christmas has been ornamented with traditions and tinsel that sometimes obscure the meaning behind the day. All of the presents, cookies, trees, and gatherings are to honor an extraordinary event: the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is a time of joy, but shaded with guilt, for from the manger, we can see the cross. Jesus came into our ghastly world for the singular purpose of being brutally killed to atone for the sins of humankind — including my sins. It is sometimes difficult to take joy in the beginning of a story when you know how devastating the end is.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Jesus rose in glory from the dead and waits in splendor to welcome us into our eternity. Because he rose, so shall we. From that, Christians take joy and meaning for our lives. This mortal life we lead is a transient prelude to a story whose end is not ours to write.
As we celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to each other, it is really a celebration of the gift that Jesus gave to us. Without the baby, we would not have the man. Without the man, we would not have our salvation. For that, Christians are forever thankful.
It is with this knowledge of our salvation that Christians walk through this mortal life with earnestness, confidence, joy, and love. Earnestness to do the most good with the gifts God gave us in the short time we have. Confidence in our destination. Joy in our purpose. Love for our fellow humans. It is with this in our hearts that I hope we will approach the issues that we will face together in 2021 and the years left to each of us.
Earnestness to work hard to leave the world a better place than we found it. While it might be easier to leave the hard things to those who will follow, that would be to shirk our duty and waste the time and gifts granted to us. Let us move forward with the drive of a people who know that our duty cannot be delegated.
Confidence to act without fear because our salvation and our eternity have already been won. Because of this, we need not fear condemnation, retribution, ridicule, or the tools of malice wielded by dark hearts in this world, because those implements are blunted by the weight of the eons to come. We can act with the confidence that doing what is right is an act of gratitude for a reward that has already been given.
Joy is the sinew that binds the muscle of action to the solid bones of faith. Action without faith is aimless. Faith without action withers into dust. But connected by joy, the body comes alive. Joy makes everything possible.
Love is the birthright of humankind. It is our “why” and our “why not?” We do not love one another because we necessarily like one another. We love one another because Christ loves us even when we don’t love him … or ourselves. When we love one another despite our natural inclinations otherwise, it is like the pale moon reflecting the brilliant sun of God’s love for us. The moon will not bring you warmth, but it will move the oceans.
As Christians around the world celebrate the birth of the Christ child, let us carry his love for us in our hearts that day and every day after.