ADVERTISING
 
Thursday, July 18   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Society
Should Christians join social protests?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Philip S. Powell
 

The unspeakable joy of Christmas

The miracle of new beginnings, the miracle of justice realised and the miracle of changed hearts.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTHOR Philip S. Powell 26 DECEMBER 2018 09:37 h GMT+1
‘Adoration of the shepherds’, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, c.1650. / Museo Nacional del Prado

The word joy is often heard during the Christmas season. But does the word joy mean anything in our happiness-obsessed culture? And why does the questionable birth of a Jewish baby to an unwed teenager (Mary) in an obscure part of the Middle East (Bethlehem) from two thousand years ago matter to our 21st century world of social media and space travel? What could possibly be joyful about such an event from the past?



A few years ago I attended a musical event in Amsterdam called, How to throw a Christmas Party. The show can be best described as a Christmas party combining beautiful music, euphoric colours and sporadic theatrical interludes. You can listen to the music on Spotify.



The lyrics to many of the songs were quite political, addressing issues of justice in the world. One song in particular ‘Blessed are the shipwrecked’ about refugees dying in the sea really impacted me. I felt so strangely moved by the presence of God while enjoying the show that I later quipped it was ‘secular spirituality’ at its best. This made me realise something, that the central message of Christmas is not religious news but secular news—if by religious we mean the private world of people’s personal beliefs divorced from the secular world of politics and economics. The English word ‘secular’ comes from the Latin word saeculum, meaning matters concerning this world, this age, as opposed to matters dealing with the next age after death and in eternity. Is it possible that by turning Christmas into a religious festival we have depoliticised the secular message of God’s incarnation into the flesh-and-blood world of human existence?



Let me mention three things that make the birth-event of this particular Middle Eastern baby good news for the world in the here and now.



1) In the midst of great darkness in our world, there is a light that shines, which has overcome the darkness and will never be defeated by it. Jesus is that light, and he has defeated the powers of darkness. Because the light of Jesus shines on us, world history is not going to end in doom, gloom and destruction. The Prophet Isaiah wrote “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). The birth of Jesus was the true light coming into the world and this light is greater than the powers of death at work in history. This means that after every tragedy in history (personal or social), there is subsequently some unexpected miracle of natality — new beginning. The miracle of new beginnings is the good news of Christmas that brings unspeakable joy to my heart…



2) The message of Christmas is that those who suffer injustice and oppression in the world are not forgotten by God, because he does care and he has promised to establish justice on earth. Making such a statement could seem hypocritical and false in the light of events in Yemen and other places of conflict in the world. But if we were to step back and look at history over a longer period, say two thousand years, then a different picture emerges. We see little insignificant groups of people have eventually won against mighty powers. In the 2nd and 3nd century AD the Roman Empire was turned upside-down by ragamuffin nobodies who believed that Jesus is the true ruler of the universe. This will keep on happening time and again in history. The Goliaths of this world will one day fall, defeated by little-boy David. The forgotten people of history will one day be vindicated; truth and justice may be suppressed, but they will ultimately have the final word and the last laugh. The miracle of justice realised is the good news of Christmas that brings unspeakable joy to my heart…



3) God has made provision for the hardened hearts of people to become softened by the power of divine love. Every one of us has within us an ego that is self-obsessed, and wanting self-sufficiency. We are driven by the urge to use vulnerable people around us as means for achieving our own selfish ends, while we ourselves become victimised by others above us in the power ladder. Charles Darwin called this ‘survival of the fittest’, but the Bible calls it sin. This is the reality of our world separated from God. And yet, strangely, in this fallen world, there are people who live by a different logic. They have experienced a deep transformation—a miracle of love you can call it— that leads them to become passionate about caring for the needs of others and sacrificially serving those who are on the margins of society. The only explanation: grace overcoming the brute facts of human nature. The miracle of changed hearts is the good news of Christmas that brings unspeakable joy to my heart…



I have tried to use my words to explain the significance of Christmas, but our words will often fail us in our efforts to describe the meaning of the birth of Christ. The mystery of Christ’s incarnation has to be personally experienced, which leads to an explosion of joy. Paradoxically, this experience of joy can overflow in the heart even when circumstances are painful and tragic.  



So what is the unspeakable joy of Christmas? The birth of Jesus, ‘Emmanuel’ – God of flesh and blood now with us and for us! No matter what else we say and do during Christmas, it is a yearly remembering of a natal event that has fundamentally altered the essence and end-goal of ‘secular’ world history. Because the logos of cosmic reality was born a baby and dwelt amongst us, there is hope for human beings and for life on our planet.



Joy is the experience of the fulfilment of what is hoped for. Hope for a better world, fulfilled in Jesus’ birth.



This is surely Good News worth celebrating!



Philip S. Powell manages the Learning Community of the Jubilee Centre.



This article first appeared on the Jubilee Centre website and was republished with permission.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The unspeakable joy of Christmas
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’ IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’

Students, graduates and staff of the global evangelical student movement reflected together on how the books of Luke and Acts apply to today's universities.

 
Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission

Photos of the Lausanne Movement Global Workplace Forum, celebrated in Manila.

 
European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference

Images of the fifth EFN gathering. Experts, activists, counsellors and church leaders met in Pescara, Italy.

 
Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference

Evangelical leaders from across Europe meet in Wisla (Poland) to network for mission in a range of fields. The vision is to renew the biblical church and evangelise Europe.

 
‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’ ‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’

Photos of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance’s annual gathering “Idea 2019”, in Murcia. Politicians and church leaders discussed about the role of minorities in society.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Practical ways to bring Christians from different generations together Practical ways to bring Christians from different generations together

What if young people were on church committees? asks David Hilborn, Principal of St John's College (UK).

 
Evangelical students from around the world gather in South Africa Evangelical students from around the world gather in South Africa

A short video summary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) World Assembly, July 3-10.

 
GWF in Manila: “Kingdom building requires global collaboration” GWF in Manila: “Kingdom building requires global collaboration”

850 from 108 countries met for the Global Workplace Forum, June 25-29. The gathering was organised by the Lausanne Movement. “Every workplace is a place of ministry”.

 
Luis Palau arrives in Madrid for first overseas outreach since his diagnosis of cancer Luis Palau arrives in Madrid for first overseas outreach since his diagnosis of cancer
At the invitation of hundreds of churches in Spain, the Luis Palau Association are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in Madrid, June 15-23, 2019, through numerous outreach events and a 2-day family festival in the heart of the city.
 
What are the most important truths that Christians should seek to convey in a secular context? What are the most important truths that Christians should seek to convey in a secular context?

Espen Ottosen talks about the truths Christians should share with people who have little knowledge and/or many prejudices about Christian belief.  

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.