The entire world is weary. As if a nearly two-year-long pandemic wasn’t enough, people are polarized. Families are at odds with one another. Social media is as angry as it has ever been. Relationships of all levels remain fractured.
Pain is unavoidable in this world. C.S. Lewis, who lost his mother at the age of nine, wrote an entire book on this subject, entitled The Problem of Pain, and the most famous paragraph reads as follows:
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world . . . it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of the rebel soul.”
God uses pain to get our attention. Most people don’t amend much. They get stuck in their ways and resist change. That is, until the pain meter spikes and forces a reorientation in life. The chest pains of a heart attack will put a man back on the treadmill. And the loss of a loved one will point a person to ask ultimate questions.
Christmas is a time of year when the presence of joy is more pronounced, as well as the presence of pain. Both serve a purpose in our spiritual lives. Christmas didn’t take away evil or sin. Jesus came to cancel our sins and to offer us forgiveness. His first coming was not for the purpose of establishing justice, but to establish a way of grace.
Christmas did not eliminate suffering.
Perhaps you have experienced devastating loss on earth. Some of you have children with physical challenges and special needs. Or maybe someone you love passed away early in life. Others have aging parents who now wrestle with loneliness and health problems.
Jesus Christ has not wiped away all pain, but He promises to walk through it with us. As a man, He discovered that His friend Lazarus had died. Evidently, Jesus had many great memories with Lazarus, and when He found out His friend had died, the Bible says in two words, a mind-boggling thought: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35, CSB).
God cried. Why? Because he knew that suffering would be around longer. His arrival would not remove the pain on every street of the world. But one day, it would expire. Sin and suffering remain after Christmas, but Christmas is a story of redemption.
Christmas gives us hope that God will wipe out sin.
Jesus was born that evil might receive a death sentence. It didn’t happen on the day of His birth, but it will when He comes again. This project is half-finished.
Through Jesus, people can be healed and they can be changed. And this gift far surpasses any material gift we can receive on earth. Jesus gives us what we need to survive and thrive down here in this weary world. He gives us mercy, which gives us hope.
1 John 3:8 (CSB) says, “The one who commits sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works.”
How is He doing that today? One life at a time. As people find a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ their lives begin the process of transformation.
- Do you wish for a marriage that is healthy and romantic? It won’t happen by searching for the perfect man or woman. It will happen as you and your spouse surrender your lives to Jesus Christ. One life at a time.
- Do you wish for a fulfilling career? It won’t happen by filling out 1,000 applications or by improving your resumé. It will happen as you surrender your plans and your future to Jesus Christ.
- Do you long for a family that loves to be together—where there is harmony and respect? That won’t happen by reading self-help books or by attending conferences. Healthy families are made as Jesus Christ is set apart as Lord.
He wants to change one life at a time. He works one by one. Once Jesus told a story about a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. It’s recorded in Luke 15:
“What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.”
– Luke 15:4-7 CSB
That’s how Jesus works in this era. He is changing the earth one life at a time. For 2,000 years, He has been seeking after that one lost sheep. And when He finds one, He goes after another. And thank God He came and found me in a tiny town in the Midwest.
Christmas gives us hope that one day God will wipe out suffering.
Revelation 21:3-4 tells us what eternity will be like for those who cling to Christ as Lord:
“Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.“
That’s the “coming soon” message of Christmas. The pain you feel in your heart today is part of the “previous things.” That means when we look out at the world and see all the suffering in it, the appropriate question is not Why? but When? When, Lord, will You bring to pass what You began in Jesus on that silent night—peace on earth and good will toward men?
The power of the Christmas message is simple: A cure for sin and suffering has been found. We can rest in the fact that Jesus’ birth and His presence with us today gives assurance He will make everything good and right in our weary, exhausting world when He comes again.