By Rev. David Scudder, Bethel Chapel Church
My dear reader, if we ever needed an exuberant celebration of Christmas, this is the year! So far, we have been inundated with bad news about THE virus, the economy, and to top it off, we have endured a lot of destructive, cultural chaos.
That just makes the message of Christmas all the more important. Christians sing a lot about joy this time of the year. For example: “Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her King” or “Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.”
The problem is that JOY, for the most part, does not describe our world. It never has, and it does seem like it has been worse lately. These words from Isaiah seem to be a more accurate description of the events we hear about every day: “Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness” (Isaiah 8:22).
We may think that our world is messed up, but it was even more messed up over 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born. Imperial Rome was in control; the politically powerful oppressed people of different cultures; and the slaves and the poor had little hope of civil or economic justice.
Gloom and doom are all around us, but we don’t have to let it depress us. “There will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious…. 2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:1–2).
There was a lot of light surrounding the birth of Jesus. When an angel announced Christ’s birth to some shepherds outside of Bethlehem, “… the glory of the Lord shone around them….” (Luke 2:9). It was the brightness of a star that led wise men from the east to come and worship Jesus (see Matthew 2:1-10). Later Jesus proclaimed that He is a light that defeats darkness. “… I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).
2020 may appear unending, but it isn’t. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the darkness will never crush you. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). In other words, peace calms our hearts as we put our trust in Jesus: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
Let’s keep “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).
Merry Christmas! Regardless of what lies ahead personally or politically for us, remember: The purpose of the Lord will stand!
Bethel Chapel Church is located at K & Lycoming Streets in Juniata Park. You can email Rev. Scudder at DaveBethel@gmail.com His column appears weekly in the Juniata News.