More Than a Return to Normal
Christmas 2020 will be far from normal. Yet the message of Christmas promises not a return to normality, but a glory that is to come.
For the vast majority of people in Britain, this Christmas will not be a ‘normal’ Christmas. Families and friends will not be able to gather as they would wish, and work colleagues will not be able to go out for their Christmas events in pubs and restaurants. Families may not be able to visit relatives in care homes. Churches will not be able to hold the usual carol services with congregational singing and coffee, mince pies and mulled wine afterwards.
After nine months of the Coronavirus crisis, people are naturally longing for a return to normality. The arrival of new vaccines gives just a glimmer of hope that this will be possible by the summer.
The longed-for Messiah
Two thousand years ago the Jewish people were also longing for a return to ‘normality’. They had been waiting not just for nine months but for more than four hundred years. They looked back to the time of King David and King Solomon when they had been an independent nation, God’s glory had dwelt amongst them in the Temple, and they had been victorious over their enemies.
However, as a result of their unfaithfulness to God he had handed them over to their enemies. They had been exiled and their land occupied. God’s glory had departed the Temple never yet to return. They longed for liberation from their Roman overlords and their puppet King Herod, the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and redemption from their sins. They longed for God to fulfil his promises to send his Messiah.
At Christmas we remember that God kept his word and sent the redeemer and rescuer that his people needed. Matthew tells us that the angels appeared to Joseph and told him that his fiancée was pregnant by the Holy Spirit:
‘She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin.’ (Matthew 1:21)
More than normality
The gospel accounts make clear that Jesus did not just come to bring about a return to normality. Yes, Jesus was the long-promised Messiah, the heir to throne of David. As the Divine Son of God his coming marked the return of God’s glory to dwell amongst his people, albeit veiled in human flesh.
However, he came not to take the people back to a former glory, but to bring full salvation from sin.
He came not to return them to normality, but to establish a new covenant that would ultimately culminate in a new creation.
He came not to take up residence in the earthly temple, but to offer himself in the heavenly temple as the one final and complete sacrifice for sin, who would take away the just wrath of God against those who have been unfaithful to him.
He came to defeat death so that all who put their faith and trust in him will share an eternal glory with him in resurrected bodies.
He came to eliminate disease (and pandemics), suffering, pain, death and grief forever.
Long for the glory to come
As we reach the end of this year many people are hoping for a return to normality. However, we have a much better hope to proclaim. Vaccines may be able to defeat the coronavirus, but there is no vaccine that can protect against sin, death and judgement - except the fully effective medicine of the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Let fix our eyes on him and the hope that we have in him and let us make the most of the opportunities we have this Christmas - when the sense of loss and need will be all too palpable - to tell others of the greater and better hope that we can have through Jesus.
Let us not settle for a mere return to the way things were, but keep longing for the glory that is to come.