If you are like me, certain images come to mind when you hear the word "Christmas." For many Americans, the idea of Christmas brings up images of time with family. Perhaps you envision logs burning in a fireplace with stockings hung around. Perhaps you imagine a turkey dinner and presents. My Bulgarian neighbors probably think of a meatless meal with an odd number of dishes including stuffed peppers, a fruit drink, and a loaf of bread with a coin hidden in it. My Polish friends might think of a meal with delicious fish. I always imagined those in Australia associating Christmas with a warm summer’s day. Regardless of where you are from, the idea of Christmas often brings up thoughts of comfort and joy.
Yet, when I think about what Christmas really represents it seems strange that Christmas and comfort are nearly synonyms. Jesus left His heavenly dwelling to be born in a barn surrounded by stench and discomfort. He entered enemy territory in a way that left Him totally vulnerable, and from a very early age there were people who sought to murder Him.
When I think about the last century, the closest event I can find to equate with the first Christmas is D-Day. The Allied troops stormed into enemy territory to rescue Europe from an evil socialist dictator. They did so knowing full well that many of them would die. They knew that they were vulnerable with ever step they took along those sandy beaches, yet they fought and died anyway, and the world was changed for the better by their sacrifice.
Jesus entered enemy territory and faced death to save us. He endured much discomfort, great sorrow, unbearable pain, and death. This was the ultimate mission in a war, not day of comfort and joy. It was the beginning of a hard fought victory of light over darkness.
His victory is what allows us to celebrate in comfort and joy. Because of what He did for us, we have absolute assurance of our salvation. There is no greater comfort and joy than knowing that we have been made right with God.
I am immensely grateful for what Jesus did for me. When I enjoy this comfortable and joyful season with my family here in Bulgaria, I will remember the source of an even greater comfort and joy. And I will rejoice.