I love Christmas! There’s just something about the holiday season that gives me these warm, fuzzy feelings. The Christmas cookies, carols, TV specials, lights, trees—and don’t forget the eggnog.

Sometimes, I like to imagine what that first Christmas was like. Was it anything like many of our nativity sets, with everyone looking so saintly, calm and quiet? Was Jesus really the baby who never cried?

When we look at the Bible story, I think we see that things were not so sanitized, simple and uncomplicated.

The world that Jesus was born into was filled with political strife, violence and uncertainty. Jesus was conceived out of wedlock, and born in a small, out-of-the-way town. His parents were so poor that they had nowhere to stay, and his first crib was an animal feeding trough.

This is how God comes to us. This is how the Messiah comes to us. This is how hope comes to us.

Not with mighty heavenly forces, or an unstoppable army, or with political power, riches and strength—but as a little, seemingly-insignificant baby. Christmas celebrates that God isn’t so far away. Christmas celebrates that the holy and the sacred can be found right in the midst of our messy lives.

For many people, this Christmas is not a time of joy or celebration. Maybe you’re one of those people. Maybe you’ve gone through a difficult year. 2017 has been a struggle for many of us, whether it’s financial difficulties, uncertain next steps, sickness in your family or that keen awareness that someone at the table is missing this year.

Our great hope at Christmas is proven through God’s desire to be right here with us. To walk alongside us in all of our hurts and all of our joys. To be right here with you. That is why Jesus came to us.

Christmas is a time of celebrating and remembering that we now have hope. This hope isn’t based on what we can do—this hope is based on what God has already done! Our hope is in our God who changes the world through loving kindness, humility, grace and through a deep, deep love.

A love that moved God to come down here, to come down here to be with you.

Friend, this Christmas, it is my hope and prayer that you experience the fullness of God’s love for you. May you feel God’s loving presence in the midst of your hurts. And may your heart be filled with God’s hope, peace and loving kindness.

Merry Christmas.

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