As I am surrounded by loving family this Christmas, it is not hard to reflect on the love of God in Christ this holiday is meant to celebrate. Yet I know that for so many, Christmas becomes a painful reminder of the absence of love. Perhaps it’s the memory of a loved one who has passed away. Or maybe it’s physical distance from one(s) you love. Or emotional/relational distance due to conflict or feuding. Into this pain that the word “love” can hold, the beauty of Christ our Redeemer becomes even more powerful. Here is one whose love is eternal in measure, depth, quality, essence. No good-bye is ever forever; no fighting will cause conflict too great for reconciliation; there is even hope for life beyond death.
Where? And how? The promise of God is no haphazard well-meaning wish. It’s a covenant of Love guaranteed by blood. The blood of his son, Jesus, sent to earth as a vulnerable baby. Birthed in a cave. Cradled in a feeding trough. Celebrated by lowly shepherds. Rejoiced over by angels. Worshiped by kings from the East. Despised by the king (Herod) in his homeland. Anticipated by a prophet (Simeon) and a prophetess (Anna) in the temple. Announced by the prophet Zephaniah centuries beforehand, who spoke this about this one who would come to bring eternal Love. Listen and rejoice that there is such a Love – found through a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ: [substitute “daughter of Zion,” “Israel,” “Jerusalem” with your name]
14Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:”Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
18I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
19Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
20At that time I will bring you in,
at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes,” says the LORD.