THE PROMISE OF CHRISTMAS
A few years ago, the day after another awful and tragic mass shooting, the New York Daily News put several comments of high-ranking political figures on the front page of their paper, stating that they were praying for the victims, or that their thoughts and prayers were with the victims. Pretty standard responses as these kinds of events have somehow become all too standard themselves. But in the midst of these quotes was the big headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The main point of the headline and the accompanying article was that prayer is simply not enough; our leaders need to stop hiding behind meaningless and banal platitudes and start doing something about this.
I don’t think the point of this article and headline was to attack prayer, but instead to express frustration over the inaction of our government to do something legislatively to stop mass shootings. And certainly, statements like “I’m praying for you” can easily become empty clichés and meaningless tweets, things we just say because we think we are supposed to, because they sound good, and we don’t know what else to say. But this headline has always stuck with me because it expresses what has become a pretty widespread belief, even in the church: that even if God is there, he isn’t doing enough, or what he’s doing has failed.
This thinking about God is always corrosive because it inevitably leads to the idea that God is somehow indifferent or apathetic to our suffering and pain. The heart of sin is this insistence that God doesn’t really care, so he’s not really going to do anything, so I don’t really need God. We’re better off figuring things out on our own and solving our own problems because God isn’t doing it.
The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us understand, believe, and then live knowing that God is at work. God is there, God cares, and God is fixing what is wrong with this world. Prayer matters. Worship matters. Faith matters. We especially see this as we consider the miracle of Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ brings light into darkness, joy into grief, peace into chaos, and hope into hopelessness. This is why it is good news of great joy.
As Isaiah 9 states, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them (2). For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this (6–7).”
God is not uncaring, unconcerned, or unmoved with what goes on in our world or what goes on in your life. God loves the world and God loves you, and this is exactly why he sent his Son Jesus Christ to this earth, to fix things, both in this world and in your life. Jesus came the first time to accomplish salvation by living a perfect life, dying in our place on the cross, and rising from the dead. Ever since Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again, a new world order has begun. We are in the midst of God working out his plan, of redeeming people and ultimately creation, as far as the curse is found. We now live in anticipation of the return of our King, the Second Advent, when the kingdom will come in its fullness. God’s plan and purposes are sure. He is fixing this in Christ.