There’s nothing like the Christmas season to force you to face the fact that life is often neither joyful nor triumphant.
Separation, divorce or singleness can leave people celebrating alone. People who’ve lost a loved one may be especially mindful of the loss at Christmas time. And those who are unable to travel to their hometowns may feel abandoned and left out.
But for those surrounded by family and friends, sometimes Christmas isn’t much better.
The holidays add stress of having to cook and entertain for large gatherings. For many people, family gatherings bring to the surface all those long-standing hurts and conflicts. Add to that the financial stress, the extra time demands of holiday activities, and the unrealistic expectations of that this year ‘we’ll finally have a Norman Rockwell experience,’ and you can see why many people find Christmas depressing.
It raises the question, what is there to celebrate about Christmas? I’d like to answer that question by looking at one of my favorite Christmas stories: Job.
Job had everything we think of as important and worthwhile, and then he lost it. His herds and flocks were stolen, his houses demolished, and then, as a crowning blow, all of his children, seven sons and three daughters, were killed in a single day. I can’t even imagine that kind of loss! In addition to everything else, Job was afflicted with a terrible siege of boils, open running sores, from head to toe.
In chapter 19, we find Job sitting on ash heap, bemoaning his terrible fate. Seeing no reason or explanation for the tragedies that assailed him, Job cried out in agony to God. But then in the midst of his gloom, Job declares his hope. In the deepest pit of darkness a person can experience, Job had an amazing flash of light. He says:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. – Job 19:25
God’s ultimate answer to the agony and sufferings of this life is a Redeemer who shares our anguish and pain and will solve it once for all.
A Redeemer is simply a rescuer. The word was used of the person who buys another out of slavery and the person who takes care of widows or orphans who have no one else to care for them. A Redeemer was a person you could count on to take the responsibility to deliver you from your peril.
The hope that sustained Job sitting on that ash heap, scraping at his boils, is the knowledge that he had a Redeemer. This is the message of Christmas. It is the reason we can celebrate no matter how difficult our circumstances. Because nothing happened to Job that God could not redeem.
Nothing. True, Job lost everything. He lost his family, his wealth, his health, his marriage and his friends. From our point of view that’s about everything a person could possibly lose. Yet Job suffered no loss that God could not redeem.
We celebrate Christmas because our Redeemer lives. He was born on Christmas day.