Christmas isn’t the same – or is it

‘Christmas isn’t the same this year’ are the words we hear resounding around. Of
course for some, Christmas 2020 will not be the same. Many will be grieving the
loss of a loved one through COVID. Others shaken because of losing a job. Some,
with rising cost of food bills are wondering how they will feed their families.
Yet Christmas is the same. We still celebrate an event in history that was to
change the world. A baby was born. We all like babies. His first bed was an animal
manger. We know the story well. Some cards show this little bright-eyed baby in a
manger surrounded by well behaved donkeys, sweet lambs and a few docile cows
with a good sprinkling of glitter to make it Christmassy. Yet this Baby is different.
One of his names is Emmanuel God with us. Jesus had left the splendour of
Heaven to live with mankind. He is great and yet humbled himself to become a
vulnerable baby. God with us! That’s something to celebrate.
There are some remarkable accounts of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection in
his biography written by a Greek doctor called Luke. As Christmas approaches I
have slowly been reading his account of the events around Jesus’ birth. There are
accounts of unusual happenings. Angels speaking to ordinary people, others were
filled with the Holy Spirit and burst into song. Doctor Luke was careful to collect
information of eyewitnesses to give an orderly account of Jesus’ life. As I read
through these accounts my heart is warmed and my mind is satisfied.
I was reading the story of the birth of John the Baptist. His parents Zechariah and
Elizabeth were pretty old – certainly past the child-bearing age! Luke describes
them as upright and blameless. In other words they were people who were
devoted to God. Zechariah, a priest, was in the Temple on his own in the most
holiest place of the temple when Angel Gabriel appeared to him. Poor Zechariah
was taken over by fear but Gabriel’s words to Zechariah were amazing, ‘Do not be
afraid. Your prayer is answered. Elizabeth will bear a son. You will call him John.’ It
was all too much to believe and he was struck dumb because he doubted. But
nine months later Elizabeth did give birth to John.
Eight days later he was named, not Zechariah after his father, but John. Zechariah
firmed up the name writing it on a tablet (not an iPad but a piece of wood). What
an exciting time. Zechariah got his voice back and began to praise God. He was
filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied first praising God who is a merciful
promise keeper, rescuing his wayward people. Secondly Zechariah prophesied
over his boy. John would prepare people for Jesus coming and showing them their
need of forgiveness of sin and God’s rescue plan. Zechariah finishes by a reminder
of God’s tender mercies and saying the ‘rising sun will come from Heaven to shine
on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide them into all
A few days before Christmas is the shortest day. Everything is dark and this year
has been particularly bleak but the days will get longer. The sun will shine bringing
hope amid the darkness. This lovely picture in Zechariah’s prophecy is so
encouraging for us in 2020. Just as the sun rises up and brings healing and well
being, so Jesus brings healing, forgiveness and peace today. They are pretty good
gifts for Christmas. Christmas IS the same this year.

Christine Lumgair