Christmas Cheer

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”  So wrote Charles Dickens in his classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” published in 1859.  Some things never change; not even 158 years later!


It has been a rough ride as of late; hasn’t it?  We are immersed in a poisonous political climate, are being fed more and more revelations of what has been called “toxic masculinity,” and are given cause for more profound concern over, on the one hand, the antics of terrorists who want to kill us and overseas tyrants who want to obliterate us and, on the other, the travesties of racial divisiveness within and social control over our nation.


It doesn’t stop there; though.  Quality continues to decline on all levels.  Respect and propriety, those societal barometers by which we may take a societal pulse, are at an-all-time ebb without any flow but wrong-ways.  And, as the Bible gave caution a long time ago, good is now being branded as evil and evil is being proffered as good.


Now the good news:  It’s the season of Christmas!  And Christmas, it must be said, is hard-pressed to let us down, at least not if its core Constituent has anything to do with it.  Dear reader, please don’t miss what has been affectionately and poetically described as “the Reason for the Season.”


November gave us reason to pause and to give all-warranted honor to our veterans.  These men and women have literally put their lives on the line for the benefit of us back home.  Whole families and communities have experienced the trauma of the battlefield.  We stand in honor of our stalwart soldiers who have sacrificed so much to keep us free, and who are the primary agents of the defense of western civilization; frankly, the American soldier, as a collective, should win the Nobel Peace Prize.


We were also given reason to thank Almighty God for His many, multi-faceted and variegated gifts to all of us.  The Thanksgiving Table is an eminently charming way by which we may thankfully celebrate His abundant provision.  Winston Churchill once remarked amidst the besetting trials of the 2nd World War that, without courage, all of the other virtues were meaningless.  He was correct within the context of his times but, for us, I believe it more true to say that all of the other virtues are without any value if we aren’t first-and-foremost grateful to God for His many blessings.  Our Founding Fathers weren’t perfect, but in this one respect they give guidance to us – They expressed gratitude to God, and they did so with elegant language, exquisite penmanship and heart-felt sentiment.  We would do well to follow their lead.


December affords us reason to give thanks to God on behalf of a fallen world for His gift of a Savior.  His name is Jesus Christ, and His life and work has made such a difference.


It is a troubling fact that the mere mention of His name proves so troubling to so many.  It’s as if He is some kind of pariah; certainly, amongst the elites and the college-educated, and many of our youth who have been subjected to an increasingly secular education.  It was the same in His day; though, especially amongst those who should have known better; namely, the religious leaders.


Some things never change, and that includes Jesus.  We are told that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13.8).  This means that His character doesn’t change, nor His Word or His purpose, and neither does the bent of His heart – He loves us; folks; He loves us with an undying and all-consuming love.  He Himself said that “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15.13), and He proceeded to go and do just that – die for us and in our place, bearing our sins with His crucified life so that we could bear the mantle of His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5.21).  And all for the simple yet profound reason that He loves us!


Pop singer Jackie DeShannon sang “What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love.”  That was in 1965 and, like then as like always, the world needs love right now, but it must be more than merely sweet.  It has to be authentic.  It has to be truthful.  It has to be willing to forbear and to endure and even to sacrifice, else it is anything and everything but love.  It can’t settle for mere “like,” nor can it serve as camouflage for unbridled lust.  And (Yes!) it must be holy if it is to penetrate our sin-infested world.  Such a love has been given to us by Almighty God.  It is His Christmas gift to you.  Allow me to open it:


“Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid!  Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people:  Today your Savior is born in the city of David.  He is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you:  You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, and lying in a manger.’  Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased!’” (Luke 2.8-14).   


It’s the best of times amidst the worst of times – Praise Him and Merry Christmas to you!   


Bradley E. Lacey

Pastor, First Baptist Church at Conshohocken