The news media pumps out sadness day after day. Our emotions are bombarded with images of war, forecasts of imminent economic crises and reports of humanitarian disasters. Our sensibilities are overshadowed by the politics that dominate major events, and our journeys by plane, car and train are hindered by increased security checks, staffing strikes and overzealous environmental campaigners. This is most keenly felt during the festive season. Indeed, as I write this article, our NHS is in crisis, with vital services being cancelled and a looming nursing strike.
Nevertheless, despite the challenges of the hour, we have a reason to be joyful as Seventh-day Adventist Christians. At this time of the year, while millions are preparing to 'deck the halls', we have an opportunity to celebrate three events: the coming of our Saviour to the earth in the form of a baby, His sacrifice on Calvary that secured our salvation, and His soon return. The story of redemption is one that needs celebration. Imagine, "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life" (John 3:16, MSG). I'm in awe of a God that "hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4, KJV).
And Jesus was obedient to the will of His Father and "did not cling to his prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal" (Philippians 2:6-8, PHILLIPS).
We live in a society where we all know and enjoy our rights. Many of us enjoy the privileges that are made available to us – an upgrade from economy to business or first class on a flight, the end-of-year bonus at work. Would we be willing to forgo such privileges, flight upgrades or our work bonus for someone who dislikes us or has slandered our name?
Jesus Christ freely gave up His rights and the privilege of being 'equal with God'. His virgin birth was surrounded by scandal, and it is likely that this scandal accompanied Him throughout His childhood and teenage years. His parents travelled 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and while His mother, Mary, rode on a donkey, his earthly father, Joseph, likely made the week-long journey on foot through "rough terrains, rocky hillsides, [and] desert valleys." Jesus was born in a barn, with no midwife or medical professionals present. Shortly after His birth, He became a refugee because of a ruler's paranoia: "Behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him" (Matthew 2:13, KJV).
God loved the world so much that He allowed His Son to suffer these hardships for our sake.
While that thought should humble us and make us more grateful, it should also give us a deep and lasting sense of joy. God did all that to save us – to save you and to save me.
Wow! Wow! Wow!
So, instead of succumbing to the sadness of our day, this festive season I invite you to join me in singing of the joy that was given to us in Jesus.
Joy to the world; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.