A Christmas Unlike Any Other
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, ' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:3-8 NIV)
What a time to have a baby, moreover what a time to go into labor and add even more stress to an already stressful time. To be isolated from family and friends, to travel amidst unknown and potentially dangerous circumstances, to not even be certain that a room will be available because of the rapidly growing demand.
This is the uncertainty that faced many young couples who will be celebrating a COVID Christmas this year with a new baby. This is also the uncertainty that faced a young couple who celebrated that first Christmas with Baby Jesus. The similarities did not stop there. Political upheaval? Check. Divisiveness? Check. Increasing taxes? Check. (You may recall the reason Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem in the first place was so the government in power could get a handle on who and how much to tax.) Racial, religious, and cultural prejudice? Check. Protests and riots? Check. (Jesus would actually befriend and convert one of those rabble-rousers when He called Simon “the Zealot” as one of His disciples.) Did I mention, what a time to have a baby? Check.
Yes, this Christmas will be unlike any other. It will be shrouded in the cloak of COVID. It will be on the cusp of new political leadership and almost certain change. It will include new learning and new fears, especially for new parents. It will also come with similarities to that first Christmas, the hope of a new beginning. “Good news of great joy,” proclaimed the angel to the shepherds. I'd like to think this famous and frequently quoted exclamation that rang out in Heaven and on earth the day Jesus was born still resounds in Heaven at the birth of every child. “Good News of Great Joy!”
We don’t think about it much, but the birth of Jesus began the end of the age. Prophesies began to be fulfilled with many others on track to completion. God would become the Baby Jesus, who would become a man, who would live a sinless life, yet hang on a criminal’s cross for the sins of the world. He would rise from the dead, only to ascend back into Heaven as Emmanuel, “God with us,” the whole time. There, more promises would be kept as more prophesies were fulfilled. One day this will lead to and culminate with the triumphal entry of Christ the King, eventually redeeming all mankind who would place their trust in Jesus.
Many theologians believe that we are beginning to see the birth pangs of the end of the age as described in Matthew 24:3-8. Like the birth pangs of a new mother, we must first suffer discomfort before celebrating new life. May all the babies we see this Christmas be a reminder of the new baby the shepherds saw that first Christmas, and may this Christmas, unlike any other, be a reminder to celebrate the new life of Jesus and therefore our new life in Jesus. God bless and Merry Christmas!