For me, Christmas exists somewhere between the desperate need for Jesus’ return and the joy that comes from the hope in knowing that the victory is assured. Andrew Byers, calls this “hopeful realism,” a perspective that “embraces the dual realities of contemporary evil and forthcoming redemption.”2 He writes, “Hopeful realists are still groaning with all of creation, but they can detect in the air that sweet fragrance of renewal released by the opening of Christ’s tomb.”3 I think it is in the same heart that Christmas can be so much more than a holiday. It is opportunity for Christians to contemplate and respond to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Following Christ’s example, we can enter into the hearts and prayers of God’s people who cry out for His kingdom to reign on Earth, finally, as it does in Heaven. We can celebrate with joy and assurance that His Kingdom has already started and is heading towards completion. Because even “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is followed by the chorus, “Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel,” God is among us.
The beauty is that Christmas invites us to respond from wherever we are, whether it is with cries of desperation, celebration, or somewhere between. Our hearts can be opened to the needs and sufferings of this world, and our praise and prayers lifted up to Jesus. So this season, my heart and prayers go out to the students on campuses around the world facing injustice. To the people recovering and mourning. To those wondering where their next meal will come from or what their next day will bring. And still, I sing with joy and thanksgiving that He has come and is coming again, that His Kingdom will reign; and on earth, peace.
-- D. Bliss
2 Byers, Andrew J. "On the Road to Emmaus and Damascus." In Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2011.
3 Byers. Kindle Location 2154. 2011.