Superbook Christmas 2021
by Jessica Forster
Superbook Coordinator, CBN Europe
For most, a time of celebration, a time of joy and fellowship. When I think of Christmas, I immediately think of lights, stars, angels, trees and large feasts. Others may relate Christmas to gifts and children opening presents left by Santa Clause. However every year, during the Christmas season, someone or something reminds me that for some, this is not their reality around this festive period…
The Truth at Christmas Time
A few years back, several large companies used this fact as the theme for their Christmas advertisement. How amazing that those big corporations saw a need and met that need, by opening our eyes to some of the harsh, real-life situations that people across the world experience every day – even at Christmas time.
But I want to focus on one of those realities in this article. One that I have regularly been reminded of, but until this year, have not fully considered in as much depth as it deserves. I want to premise this article by saying that I know that what I am going to touch on are tough subjects, especially in a time when we are invited to focus so much on joy. But focusing only on the good in Christmas is to do this story a huge disservice. The first Christmas was not one of complete joy and peace but of recognising amidst all of that, we can have joy because it speaks to all of us.
This year and the year before have been 24 months of extreme challenge to this world. Not only did we all fight and, in some cases, lose a battle to a global pandemic, but we have seen an unprecedented need for humanitarian aid across the world. I had not heard about many of these global issues until writing this article but looking at “The International Rescue Committee” they have created a “top 10 crisis the world should be watching” list;
Mozambique was struck by two huge cyclones in 2019, there is a massive uprising as well at the effects of Covid-19. This is causing the amount of people in need to double this year to 1.3 million. There’s Venezuela, Nigeria, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria who have now been dubbed “the deadliest place for Humanitarians”. Afghanistan are facing huge threat from conflict and the number one is Yemen, with 24.3 million people in need of aid and a huge threat of country wide famine. In the UK we saw Storm Christopher take over Northwest England and Wales, In March we heard of the disappearance of Sarah Everard, and in June we saw the Black Lives Matter protests keeping the George Floyd name and many others a point of focus. The list goes on and on.
The one perspective I want to look at – and one that encompasses many of what we have seen above – is the perspective of the mother of Jesus; Mary.
‘This year and the year before have been 24 months of extreme challenge to this world. Not only did we all fight and, in some cases, lose a battle to a global pandemic, but we have seen an unprecedented need for humanitarian aid across the world.’
We need to really think about all that Mary had to endure before, during and after the birth of her son. Mary was probably a teenager who became pregnant outside of wedlock. Mary, who was engaged to Joseph would have had the difficult job of telling her fiancé that she was pregnant and that their engagement needed to be cancelled. She could have been left alone to raise a child in shame, with no income or support.
Next, we read in Luke 2:1-6 that, at that time, a census was called for all people and that Mary and Joseph had to pack what they needed and leave behind any possessions they could not carry to go to a town that they were not familiar with. The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have roughly taken 4 days on foot and Mary at this time was about nine months pregnant.
When they got to Bethlehem, they found space in an animal shelter and Mary gave birth. Mary would not have had pain relief, there would have been no hot water or towels and the bed would have been straw on the floor. It would have been dark and smelly, no electricity or heating. I cannot imagine giving birth in those circumstances. But the challenge continues because not long after Jesus is born, God warns Joseph that Herod is killing all Newborns because of the threat of a “new king”. Imagine this: a new baby and their life is in danger, you must flee to yet another unknown country to protect your child. You become an asylum seeker, just like many do today.
This story, although full of love and miracles, is also one of anxiety, fear and huge amounts of sacrifice. So, what can we glean from all of this? How can we reflect on all of these circumstances and still come out fighting?
‘This story, although full of love and miracles, is also one of anxiety, fear and huge amounts of sacrifice.’
The Light of Hope
Personally, I think through all that is written within the story of Christmas and the biggest point we can take from it is hope. Hope, perhaps, for a better future. Although it was not clear to Mary and Joseph exactly how this baby was going to change things, they had assurance from God.
“The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, because God is pleased with you. Listen! You will become pregnant. You will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and people will call him the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end.”
(Luke 1:30-33 – ICB)
And we too can live in hope that our future, and the future of our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and the next generation can indeed be different. As a mother and someone who has worked with children most of my adult life, I worry about whether the world that our children will inherit will be safe, clean and a place of equality and justice. The story of Christmas allows me to be confident that God can turn things around, just as he did with Jesus’ resurrection.
I have hope that even during the hardest season of our life, God will always remain. I am sure that there were times when Mary was confused as to why God chose her, why she had to be pregnant but not married, give birth in a stable and not in comfort and safety. But through it all God was with them, in the darkness and the damp of the stable, on the road to Egypt fleeing to save their son and in the baby that was incarnate. I look around today and sometimes feel like all I see is darkness, that all that is going on around me is not what God wants for us – and it isn’t. But God doesn’t leave us, in our pain, in our questions, in our darkness – he is still there.
Matthew 1:23 says “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
The God-given name of His Son, as a reminder to Mary (and as an eternal reminder to us) is that God is indeed with us, always.
And maybe this year, after everything we have collectively been through, we can look out even more for those around us who may need a glimpse of this hope.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that in the midst of this darkness, when it all seems too much, you will see Christ’s light, you will feel his warmth, and you will be comforted by his presence.
God bless you all, and a Merry Christmas!