Dear <<First Name>>,
What a wild year.
Normally, throughout the Christmas season we hear cries of "good tidings" and "great cheer" and "goodwill towards men." You'd be forgiven for asking where these all are amidst the cries of "deep loss" and "great fraud" and "growing tension" during the 2020 holidays. It's almost easy to miss out on the classic warm feelings that are supposed to come with the Christmas season. I've even heard some joke - is it even Christmas at all?
If we simply turn to scripture, the answer to that question is a resounding yes! Look at what is going on in Judea around the birth of Jesus. Rome conquered the Jews some 60 years earlier and now runs the land as a client-state. Herod the Great, ruling as the puppet king of Rome, is a madman who literally murders an entire generation of newborns at the whisper of a threat to his rule.
Not just Mary and Joseph are suffering during the time of the birth of Jesus, but the entirety of God's chosen people. Therefore, when the angel appears to the shepherds in Luke 2 and brings "good news that will bring great joy to all people," this is something shocking and truly awe-inspiring.
This is not joy in the midst of family and fireplaces and Frank Sinatra. This is joy in the midst of pain and suffering and occupation, brought to a people waiting to throw off the shackles of Roman oppression and the tyranny of Herod.
This is Gospel joy! Not rebellion, release from earthly rulers, or a return to a land of blessing that the Jews were hoping for, but true joy - joy in the hope of salvation from sin brought about by God Himself made flesh.
This is what my heart ponders in the midst of a painful end to a tough year. I pray it is of some encouragement to you and yours as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, who loves us unfailingly and alone is our hope.
But the LORD watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.