A Christmas favorite

Luke 19:41-44

It’s not hard to find someone who considers Christmas their favorite holiday.

And what’s not to love? There’s a feeling of goodwill we don’t always experience at other times. The festivities are fun and even the ugly sweaters garner smiles. Most people also have favorite traditions to make spirits bright. No wonder more than forty percent of Americans say Christmas is their favorite.

Speaking of favorites, let’s talk favorite cities.

More specifically, let’s consider Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts of Jewish people. It stands at the center of Jewish life and thought. Of course, Christians and Muslims today also hold it in high regard. Its history includes tragedy and war, victory and prominence. It became the city of David.

As such, Jesus would’ve known the importance of Jerusalem. He would’ve understood what God desired for that place more than anyone. Luke tells us of one occasion Jesus went there. When he saw the city, he wept.

That makes me think of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. Interestingly, Jesus was about to resurrect Lazarus, but he still cried at his death. At Jerusalem, Jesus would resurrect soon, but he still cried for Jerusalem.

Why?

He said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:41)! Did you pick up on the favorite city feeling? “Even you,” Jerusalem. It’s often translated as the city of peace. But it did not know peace. It wouldn’t recognize the things that make for peace.

Even as the cherished, favorite city.

Likewise, it’s quite possible for Christmas to be our favorite holiday and for us to miss the peace that is Christ, too. One of our favorite texts to read at Christmas is from Isaiah. “For to us a child is born,” we declare. Among the other titles we acknowledge, we say Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And the Prince of Peace has a way of peace God teaches us.

And if God’s desire for peace gets lost, even in all our holiday fun and excitement, I assume Jesus is still weeping.

Stay blessed…john

Joy to the World

Acts 7:59-8:8

I love singing “Joy to the World” at Christmas. It’s a message that rings through our celebrations welcoming the Christ child. Yes, in Jesus, the Lord has come! The hymn, though, centers much more on the second coming of Jesus than his first. As many have noted, then, it’s not quite a Christmas hymn.

Of course, there’s no second coming without a first.

So, I’ll still sing it as we reflect on Jesus’ nativity. But, if we really want to celebrate, we should sing it some random Sunday in June as well.

The Incarnation is God with us in Jesus. Our faith tells us God took on our form and walked with us. Jesus is the light we have seen that has overcome our darkness. But the darkness still pervades our lives.

It’s easy to see that.

Turn on the news. Listen to a neighbor. Volunteer at a local food pantry or shelter. Darkness is overcome, but it has not retreated yet. It still wreaks havoc on families. There’s no ignoring its influence in the world.

Thankfully, we can see through its temporary pull. See through it to see the light of Christ shining. Darkness would tell you there’s no hope for anyone in those shelters you meet. Darkness would say the struggle is so real we all will succumb to it. When we pay attention, though, we see rays of light. You will find that even in dark places people know the joy of Christ.

It’s those moments and people we need to pay attention to.

After Stephen died in Acts 7, the church continued its mission. I’m convinced Stephen’s witness was bearing fruit through them. They heard of what he said as he was being stoned to death. It’s impossible to mistake what he was doing, fashioning his life and experience after Jesus.

Luke tells us that even as more people faced persecution, “there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). Why? Because the light of Christ was still shining.

Yes, we still see darkness. But may we allow the light of Christ to remain shining within us. As it does, may it strengthen and embolden us to be witnesses that show the world that darkness is overcome. And joy will come to our city, too.

Stay blessed…john