Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m getting older but Christmases seem to come round faster every year! And I know I’ll do the same things in much the same way, carol services and nativities, turkey and mince pies, cards and presents, Christmas trees and Christmas lights... and the traditions are good because they root us in our history and in our faith and families.
But sometimes in the security and familiarity of the old stories and customs we can fail to appreciate the significance of the ‘new’ thing that God did for us when he sent Jesus to be born as a baby in a remote corner of the world over 2,000 years ago. It’s been ‘new’ for so many years that the novelty has worn off!
In the book of Isaiah God says to his people in exile, ‘I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert! (Isaiah 43:19 New Living Translation)
This prophecy is timeless. God did a new thing when he brought the Jews home to Jerusalem after the Exile. He did a new thing when he sent Jesus to show us the way to God. He does new things in our lives every day showing us the way when we feel lost, inspiring hope when we feel despair and courage when we’re afraid.
As I write this, the news is full of the devastation and suffering in the Philippines in the wake of typhoonHaiyan. As you read this, it is likely that the tragedy there will no longer be news, just as the effects of other tragedies, like the earthquake in Haiti four years ago, are no longer in the news. Yet the appalling suffering and the work of recovery and rebuilding will be ongoing for many years.
There is nothing new about the natural disasters that afflict our world which will devastate countries already hard hit by poverty and political turmoil. There’s nothing new in any of our human suffering however caused, and so, as with the message of Christmas, we can so easily forget or ignore its significance and fail to respond to it. We fail to look for the new thing that can be done in the love of God to prevent and relieve that suffering.
What, I wonder, is the new thing that God wants to do in our trouble torn world this Christmas? And so what is the new thing God wants us to do from our positions of relative privilege as we join in God’s work of birthing justice, love and peace in our world?
Through the timeless stories of Christmas and the carols we sing, let’s pray that God gives us a fresh understanding of and new insights into his love and goodness and courage to play our part.