I was thinking last week about the dark things that we sometimes miss seeing when we talk about the first Christmas. We overlook that Joseph was about to abandon Mary. We tend to not talk about the babies that were killed by Harod. We gloss over Simeon’s blessing in the temple that includes declaring that Jesus would be opposed and ultimately killed. These are deep shadows over the holy family. They are not easy shadows to dispel. They are much like the shadows that loom over our lives, aren’t they?
Yes, as I see it, the shadows over the first Christmas are long indeed. Yet, God was doing great things. He was saving the world! Isn’t that the way it is in our lives? We tend to want God to remove our struggles. We balk at the shadows. We resist the problems. Sometimes we may even ask God why we have to go through them. Perhaps it would shock us that God warns us that the struggles are not going to simply disappear. Maybe we even sometimes resent that the shadows in our lives are not just dispelled by a simple prayer or declaration.
We must be clear in our understanding of how the Bible speaks of God’s work in the world. He does not ever declare that He will wave a magic wand over our lives and all our problems will be over. Instead, He says things like, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) and “BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH; FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS, A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.” (Acts 13:41) [emphasis is because Paul is quoting the Old Testament] Both of these passages declare that God is doing amazing things, but both passages are also declaring that the present situation (or the immediate past) is not such a good thing. In other words, God is not working apart from the shadows, He is working in the midst and through the shadows.
Let me put it in slightly different terms. Joy is not the absence of pain. Joy is the state of overcoming pain through something that is worth suffering for! That is what God was doing in the coming of our Lord Jesus. He was overcoming the sins of the world. He was transforming our sorrow into joy!
So, next time you experience shadows in your life, do not be surprised or discouraged by them. Instead, rest in the knowledge that God is doing amazing things through them or in spite of them. In the declaring of that, I am not claiming to have all the answers for why the shadows fall in our lives. I am simply declaring that I trust that God is still at work in the midst of them. It is that trust, that faith, that Christmas brings to our minds. God is at work. He is saving people. He is saving you and me!
Something to think about,
(First published in December of 2010)