It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?
And yet the arrival of Jesus changed everything for those he encountered – but not in a way anyone was expecting. The Israelites were, most probably, waiting for a triumphant King who would overrule the Roman, and what they got was a baby born to an unwed mother and a carpenter father.
The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’ – but all too often we only think of good news as ‘happy news’ – when actually we’re talking about real, unshakeable joy.
Jesus came to upturn so many long held believers – because the most joyful news of all – that he was born to save us – came into the world in poverty and obscurity and told those who were listening that there would be trouble in the world, that the blessed amongst them would be the mourners. It’s not the kind of news that makes good encouraging instagram posts!
That idea that Jesus came to give us a good and easy life, dare I say it a prosperous life, has crept into our theology without us even realising it. However hard we try, we often have our own prosperity gospel hidden in our hearts. We may think that our tithing somehow guarantees some kind of financial privilege, or that if we just have enough faith we can curate our lives like our photo albums.
The joy that Jesus brought however, is one which doesn’t seek to eliminate all pain and discomfort, but that faces it with honesty and with a God who doesn’t abandon us. We aren’t promised a life without pain – but a life with him. A life where we aren’t alone in the pain of this life because through Jesus, God has experienced every emotion, and through the Spirit we are comforted, encouraged and challenged.
Jesus is our joy and yet he was also called “Man of Sorrows”; so perhaps he is reminding us that happiness isn’t the goal – that joy is – and that we can’t have joy apart from him.
Nothing was ever the same again when Jesus came; not for Mary and Joseph, not for the disciples and not for us.
Christmas reminds us that in Jesus’ incarnation he made him home on earth and he makes his home in our hearts – and that’s the greatest reason for our joy.
As The Message translation of John 15 reminds us:
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me…“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.”
Nothing will ever be the same again; but we are invited to make our home in Jesus’ love, because he made his home with us.
In the words of Henri Nouwen:
“Home is what the incarnation is all about.”
So amidst all the chaos and celebration of Christmas this year; whether it be full of sorrow or jubilation, let us be reminded that Jesus wants to make a home in our hearts – and nothing will ever be the same again when we make our home in the heart of our Creator.
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