The Christmas story is one of hope and joy. This is a necessary word for men and women of all cultures and languages to hear, particularly this year.
What a tragic year. It began with thousands being killed by the horrific tsunami. Then the death toll for Iraqis and American soldiers increased dramatically and the war seemed to make everyone less hopeful and more fearful. Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans as we saw thousands lose their homes, their dignity and their lives. We cried, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
Our question was only to be met with the staggering news of a powerful earthquake in Pakistan where again, thousands lost their lives.
Indeed it seems as though the earth has been cursed and that man will only inherit sorrow upon sorrow. How can Christians sing “Joy to the World” when people are in so much sorrow?
But it is into this sorrow that Christ came long ago and comes again today. When Christ was born in Bethlehem many years ago the words of Jeremiah the prophet were read protesting Herod’s furious rage and the killing of innocent children: “A voice was heard in Ramah…. Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled because they are no more.” (Mt.2:18)
Indeed at this Christmas time mothers worldwide, new Rachels, are again crying. They are crying for the 40 million HIV/Aids infected in Africa. Rachel is again crying for the death of so many innocent children in wars in Iraq and Israel and Palestine, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Indonesia and the list goes on.
Yes the world is cursed and under the sway of the wicked one. But then we hear a voice, and a new song that sings of redemption, of forgiveness, of hope. It is a redemption that has come to all in the birth of Jesus Christ; redemption is for all eternity, from the beginning to the end.
The hymn writer, Isaac Watts expressed this in the third verse of his hymn, “Joy to the World:” Christ’s redemption goes back to the garden of Eden and extends to the future: “No more let sin and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found.”
What joy to know that the redemption of Christ goes back to the beginning and extends throughout all of history, all the time of our lives.
So, yes Christians can sing in the midst of all the tragedy and suffering. We can sing of joy because we know that the people in darkness have seen a great light. We can sing of joy because we know that the long expected Messiah has come in Jesus Christ, to redeem his people, to redeem you and me.
The world may be cursed by evil but it is also blessed by a great God of redemption in Jesus Christ. Indeed, with joy we can sing that “far as the cruse is found” Jesus Christ is there redeeming, forgiving and giving hope.
And that is the reason that in the midst of all the tragedies of life … in the midst of tsunamis and wars, in the midst of Hurricane Katrina and Pakistan earthquakes, there stands one who does not leave us alone but is indeed God’s eternal presence amongst us, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore, as Christians we must work to bring this message of hope and forgiveness to all humanity. That’s why during the Second Sunday in Advent, Dec. 11, the Baptist World Alliance calls upon all of our people to pray for human rights worldwide. You can pray. Your church can pray.
Together we can pray for the suffering. Visit the BWA Web site and use the Power Point presentation to encourage your church and friends to pray and to preach the Good News of forgiveness and love … far as the curse is found.
Therefore, we wish you a Christmas of much joy.
Denton Lotz is general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.