Jesus Christ was born into a weary world, unto a weary people. God’s last word to the Jewish people had been four hundred years prior in the book of Malachi. A vast silence had echoed in the following centuries. Israel had been ruled by Greece, Syria, and finally at the time of Jesus’ birth, the despised Romans. Chronic disunity among religious factions (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes) and oppressive religious laws weighed heavily on the people. Yet they clung to their hope of the promised Messiah and when “the fullness of time had come, God sent his son.” [Galatians 4:4]
If Jesus had been born into a peaceful, prosperous moment in Jewish history, His light might have been missed. Rather as Isaiah 9:2 foretold:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them a light has shined.
The world’s weariness, darkness, and desperation only magnified the light of Jesus’ coming.
There have been years in my life when Christmas arrived with joyful expectation, and the excitement and celebration have mirrored the state of my own heart. I welcomed the revelry. There have been years when Christmas has arrived while I was grieving or sick or overwhelmed, and the traditions and beauty and worship were a balm to my soul.
And then there’s this year: 2020. Christmas has arrived, and we are all bone-weary. Nothing seems right with the world. We are living through a worldwide pandemic, violent protests, polarized politics, restricted movement, businesses failing, and livelihoods floundering. All the while, the familiar moorings that anchor and connect us – church services, school days, sports, artistic and musical pursuits, social gatherings, basic human interactions at the grocery store – cannot offer their solace. It is a year when the familiar liturgy of the Christmas season would be the most welcome of friends.
How meaningful would it be to gather with hundreds of believers on a Sunday morning and experience the simple joy of singing hymns lauding my savior’s birth? How deeply do I long to offer hospitality to the dozens of friends and family who cross my threshold each December? How I would delight in attending the Nutcracker Ballet with my daughters, followed by ridiculously large slices of cake from our local cake shop. These things have always been Christmas to me.
But this year, God, who is sovereign over all things, has allowed Christmas to be different. And I know my God works all things for my good, and so I’m asking Him what He has for me when everything is so different from how I want it to be. I pray that perhaps Christmas this year, in its diminished celebrations and simplified form, stripped of much of its pageantry, will return me to that first Christmas when, as the beloved carol proclaims, there was a thrill of hope and a weary world rejoiced.
Because that baby born in a stable in Bethlehem over two-thousand years ago grew up to be a man. And that man would live a perfect life of love and humility, bearing the sins of the world in his horrific death on a cross, and rising in final victory over both sin and death. That man now offers Himself not only as pardon, but also, as rest for the weary soul.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.Matthew 11:28-29
Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm-life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics bookclub, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.