Christmas has been hailed as “that most wonderful time of the year.” City streets sparkle with the glow of holiday lights. People have an extra bounce in their step and a greater measure of good-will towards all as they hurry along, humming familiar carols and hunting down those perfect gifts. Joyful reunions with family and friends, feasting, gift-giving, caroling, concerts and beautiful candlelight services do indeed make Christmas a wonderful time that many cherish and look forward to every year.

But for some of us, Christmas is stressful, painful and overwhelming. We put on our “game face” and numbly go through the motions while straining under the pressures of heart-breaking realities. Being bullied at school…or even worse…at home. Getting handed a pink-slip. Filing bankruptcy. Fighting cancer. Dealing with depression. Grasping at the threads of an unraveling marriage. Grieving separation from a beloved child. Mourning the death of a loved one. In times like these…we need more than tinsel and lights as an anchor for our souls. Real lives require real hope.

The Bible tells us that when the time was just right, God sent us Hope. He didn’t just look at the mess we were in and tell us to take two aspirins and call Him in the morning. The Great Physician actually made a “house call” when He laid aside His majesty and came to earth wrapped in the frailty of human flesh. His object? To free us from the power of sin and death and reconcile us to Himself. His motive? John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  

Luke 2:10-12 says that the message of the angel to the lowly shepherds that holy night was, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Matthew 1:23 says, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” 

That is still God’s message to every longing heart today…He loves us and He is with us! If we look beyond the crass commercialization and even the cherished traditions of Christmas, we will find that a babe in a manger is the real reason for the season.