As 2016 winds up and 2017 begins we recognise that past, present and future are in God’s hands.
2016 has been a year of change and uncertainty for many people. Vast movements of refugees and migrants, the devastating war in Syria and political division in this country and the USA have contributed to a sense in many people of insecurity and fear of the future. As we come to this season of celebration, this will be a time of escapism for many people; indulging themselves for a while and pretending that the world isn’t really the way it is.
That’s not what it means to us. Karl Marx famously once said that religion was the opium of the people; a place of escape from harsh reality. Whilst that may be true for some, it is certainly not true for us because it does not reflect biblical Christianity. We are not going to spend the next few weeks trying to escape from reality. Christmas for us is a time to remember how the Lord engages with the reality of a fallen and broken world and brings hope, transformation and eternal life.
As the angel said to the shepherds: ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’ – Luke 2:10-11
Rather than being an excuse for forgetting about our troubles, the Christmas message is that God has taken on our troubles. God has entered into our broken world and experienced its pain first hand. He understands our problems from the inside and not just as an observer. He has experienced pain and separation giving himself as a sacrifice for us on the cross. He has become our Saviour just as the angels predicted to the shepherds. We have a message of great joy for the world.
That propels us into the New Year with great hope. Not the false hope that somehow mankind can get itself out of the mess it is in but with an assurance that God is at work among us to change the world one life at a time.
What will He do here in 2017? What will He use you to achieve? How will the Kingdom advance and the name of Jesus be lifted up through our lives? We don’t know that yet but two things are clear.
First He can do whatever He wants through people that are open and available to Him. If we make ourselves available; if we let Him loose in our lives and offer Him every situation that we face; then He can use that and do something amazing. Secondly, if we don’t make ourselves available for Him to use, He can still act but we are making it harder for Him. Like a painter that has fewer colours available to paint their picture, we are cutting out ways in which God might touch people’s lives.
Of course, He is not dependent upon us but we too will miss out on the blessing of being used by Him.
My prediction for 2017 is that in the next weeks many people will make predictions for 2017 and most of them will be wrong because no one knows what will happen! I choose to entrust my life to the One who does know, Jesus Christ. I invite you to do the same and to offer Him this Christmastime as an opportunity to witness to your friends, neighbours and families; as well as the year ahead as an opportunity to be involved in building God’s Kingdom.
May I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Yours in Christ