Do we really know what we have just ‘celebrated’? What Christmas said to us is that God loves us so much that he couldn’t stand back and watch us struggle. He stepped into our world, lived amongst us, experienced the kind of pain that we experience so that he could walk with us through all the experiences of life.
On a daily basis we hear news of lives lost, of awful things happening in this wonderful world. Nearer to home, rarely does life run smoothly. There are constant challenges - relationships, work, old age, mental health, loneliness and so on. Christmas tells us that God didn’t simply stand back dispassionately. He got involved.
That is different from saying that he sorts everything out. Not everything was sorted out in the Christmas story. Things happened that we would have done differently and the story of human life in these 2,000 years since then says much the same. What is different is that, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God can now walk with us – if we let him.
Anyone know the difference between sympathy and empathy? Sympathy is the feeling that you care about someone else’s trouble but empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another human being is experiencing within the other person’s frame of reference. In other words, to place yourself in another person’s position. That is exactly what God did for us in Jesus. He knows what it looks like and feels like to be human. He sees and feels life through our eyes.
I said to a young husband the other evening, ‘Try and imagine that you are your wife. If you were her, what would you feel?’ What we normally do is see other people’s lives from our own perspective. God didn’t do that – he came to where we are. That gives us hope. As we enter this coming year we can know that God’s greatest desire is to walk with us, to live within us by his Spirit, to keep us company and to empower us to make good choices to live right. And, just as importantly, if we have accepted his love by faith, we too can learn to stand in each other’s shoes. Love always seeks to understand; to discover what it feels like to be the other person. Imagine a world in which we all do that to one another, from those closest to us, reaching out in ever-increasing circles.