Life is full of ups and downs, happinesses and sadnesses, good times and bad. In each passing year there is ‘a time to weep and time to laugh’ [Ecclesiastes 3:4] and this year has been no exception, a truth epitomised by the way it has included both the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, complete with that joyous film of her taking tea with Paddington Bear, and then, just a few weeks later, a period of national morning culminating in the solemn state funeral that followed her death.
We can not deny the existence of sadness but even in the sadness we cannot deny the existence of things that make us happy. Perhaps it’s true to say that we need the pain of sorrow to enable us to know what happiness really is, just as sorrow itself, if it is to be fully felt, requires the memory of the temporary nature of happiness. If, then, we are to be happy, it must be alongside our sadness and we dare not wait for the absence of sorrow before allowing ourselves to be happy. It is not that we can not be happy because we know sadness, nor that we can not be sad because there are things to be happy about. Paradoxically, we can be happy and sad at the same time. We can smile – even as we cry.
Today marks the start of the church calendar and as has been the case in recent years, the beginning of Advent offers the opportunity to look back on 12 months that, whilst no doubt containing moments of happiness, have nonetheless been far from easy, characterised as they have been for many by sadness, suffering and death. This year, amongst many other tragic events, there have been earthquakes in Indonesia, China and Afghanistan, floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh and bush fires in Australia. Add to this the war in Ukraine, the current breakdown of public services and the worldwide economic downturn and the subsequent spiralling cost of living, and one can understand why, for some this year, Christmas feels more like an ordeal that has to be endured than an enjoyable celebration that is to be looked forward to with excited anticipation.
Even so, despite the genuine concerns of many, Christmas will soon be here and its true meaning remains unchanged. And so, despite the very early sadness, Christmas can still be celebrated this year no matter the circumstances that we will find ourselves in come December 25th.
Because at Christmas we recall the ‘good news of great joy’ that the angels brought to the shepherds concerning the birth of Jesus.
Traditionally the focus for the first Sunday in Advent is Hope. Many today will be hoping for a better future, for a time when their current sorrow will be over. The Christmas message brings with it that hope, hope of a joy that will last, not just for tomorrow but for all eternity. For, as we all so long for someone who can rescue us from the current chaos, the good news heralded by those angels that first Christmas is that Jesus is that someone, the saviour we all need, the one who ‘came into the world to save sinners’.
Because Jesus didn’t remain a baby lying in a manger. What began in the little town of Bethlehem led to a green hill far away where Jesus, having grown up and lived a perfect life, was crucified. And when he died on the cross he did so in our place, paying the penalty for all that we have done, and will ever do, wrong. And with our sins paid for, we can joyfully stand in the presence of the God who loves us so much that he allowed his own dear son to suffer and die on our behalf.
And because of his subsequent resurrection, we can be certain that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice really does secure for us peace with God. And, as a result, despite the difficulties that 2023 will still no doubt throw up, we nonetheless can look confidently forward to that promised time when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more.
Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of advent and on Thursday many will start the countdown to Christmas by opening the first door of their advent calendars. But Advent is a time when we look forward to more than just Christmas. It’s a time when we look forward to celebrating not only Jesus’ birth but also his coming again, when those better days that we all so long for will finally fully arrive.
So in this season of Advent, let’s not give up hope. Let’s celebrate despite the sadness, because, for those who hope in Christ, better days really are on their way!
Other related posts:
To read ‘I’ll miss this when I’m gone’, click here
To read ‘Everything is Alright’, click here
To read ‘Order out of chaos’, click here
To read “Hope comes from believing the promises of God”, click here
To read, ‘But this I know’, click here
To read “Suffering- A Personal View”, click here.
To read “Why do bad things happen to good people – a tentative suggestion”, click here
To read “Luther and the global pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross”, click here
To read ‘Covid -19. Does it suggest we really did have the experience but miss the meaning?’, click here. This is a slightly adapted version of “T.S. Eliot, Jesus and the Paradox of the Christian Life’.
To read ‘The “Already” and the “Not Yet”’, click here
To read ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac – Law or Gospel?’, click here
To read ‘on being confronted by the law’, click here
To read ‘Good Friday 2022’, click here
To read “Easter Sunday – 2021”, click here
To read, ‘The Resurrection – is it Rhubarb?’, click here
To read “Waiting patiently for the Lord”, click here
To read ‘Real Power’, click here
To read ‘I’ll miss her now she’s gone’, click here
To read ‘The Queen who has a King’, click here
And finally, to read ‘A GP called Paddington’, click here
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