Christmas in September?
Bibianna reflects on how the truth that God is with us is not just for Christmas, but is our certain hope throughout the year, regardless of our circumstances.
I opened the image in the message and laughed. My mum had sent an image of Christmas decorations already being sold in stores. Here we are, in the busyness of September but yet, some shops were already preparing for Christmas. The thought of Christmas in September felt weird to me. Or is it?
At Christmas, Christians often speak of the Immanuel, the God with us, who brings peace and joy and hope. This is celebrated through our hymns and songs, and also in the texts that we read. The arrival of Jesus is the culmination of years of waiting and anticipation. Hope no longer remains an idea, but came in a person.
Our recent studies in 1 Peter also reminds us that this side of the cross, our hope is also a living hope. We know with greater certainty that this hope is not just rooted in subjective emotions, but is anchored in objective truth—in the person and work of Christ. We now know too that the Immanuel, God with us, is a reality all the time. It doesn’t just come out with the Christmas decorations during the Christmas period. It is also true even when the dust of festivities settles in January, right through the busyness of the rest of the year.
And even in the midst of this pandemic, the reality of God with us, still remains true.
Like many of us, I too, received the news of new measures with a bit of dread. Reading the news these days could also bring about similar responses of worry and frustration. Hope could seem elusive, and God? Is He with us?
As I was thinking about some of these things, I was comforted by the verse that some of our senior ladies studied as part of their regular study. Ps 145:13 states that “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.”
This is a wonderful reminder that our God is unchanging and does not lie as man does (Num 23:19). Even in the midst of changes and uncertainty, we can stand secure on the Rock of Ages. He is still in charge and all His purposes are going according to plan, even though we may not see and understand it now. In Christ, the reality of Christmas is a yearlong affair and is not just restricted to the last month or quarter of the year. The reality of the presence of God is our comfort regardless of our circumstances, as a hymn we often sing describes it:
"When through the deep waters I call thee to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
We can take comfort in the fact that God is with us in this season, regardless of the challenges that we are facing. Some of our families are in the midst of exams now, while others are worried about their health struggles. Still others are navigating difficult relationships, a sense of burnout and many other struggles that life can throw us. But in all these things, we have a God that sees, knows and is with us.
The reality of the presence of God also encourages us to persevere and not grow weary of doing good (2 Thess 3:13). The good that we do can just be small, ordinary, everyday things—faithful Bible reading with another Christian, regular prayer as a community, loving and caring for our families etc. We can, as Paul puts it, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Christmas in September or October, perhaps, is not so strange after all.