For everyone who lived through 2020, chances are this year did not turn out like you had hoped.
Personally, heading into the new year on January 1, 2020, I was excited, maybe too excited, for the new year. I had high hopes that this year was going to be one of the best, though I’m not sure if I could have told you why.
Of course, those hopes were quickly dashed just three months into the year when everyone realized we were headed into a pandemic like no one had seen in a century.
Stay-at-home orders were issued. Lockdowns ensued. Restaurants were shuttered. Movie theaters were closed. In-person church services were prohibited. Travel was severely restricted. Concerts and other recreational events were cancelled. And the economy cratered while the fear of a disease that was largely unknown spread like wildfire throughout the world.
The phrases, “That’s 2020 for you,” and “I can’t wait for this year to be over,” quickly became commonplace.
When I first heard in January about a new disease ravaging China, I promptly dismissed it out of hand. “That’s half the world away. We’re safe over here,” I thought to myself.
How wrong I was.
And yet, if you’re reading this, you’ve still made it through!
Despite the excess of challenges we have all faced this year, Christmas, which I’ve always loved, has taken on added meaning because of it.
In his reflection on the Nativity for Christmas morning, Leo the Great wrote in the 5th Century:
“For today the Maker of the world was born of a Virgin’s womb, and He, who made all natures, became Son of her, whom He created. Today the Word of God appeared clothed in flesh, and That which had never been visible to human eyes began to be tangible to our hands as well… so that we too may say with the army of the heavenly host: ‘Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace to men of good will.’”
This is what we celebrate at Christmas. God, maker of heaven and earth, taking on human flesh to save us from ourselves, our past, and our sin.
In Matthew 11, followers of John the Baptist went to Jesus to ask him whether he was the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Quoting an ancient prophecy found in Isaiah 61, Jesus replied, “‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them’” (Matthew 11:4-5).
To paraphrase, Jesus says, “Yes, I am the one you have been waiting for.”
And this is why, despite the trials and ubiquitous troubles of 2020, we can all rejoice. Jesus is here. Our savior has arrived. Though we face the ever-present threat of physical death, our Lord grants us eternal life.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, says in Luke 1:46, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
This Christmas season let us all rejoice!
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