“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14
She survived breast cancer with life-threatening complications at 27 years of age. Then she headed off to Togo, West Africa.
Sarah Thebarge pursued her degrees in medicine and journalism for the express purpose to serve desperate people in developing countries. When she finally arrived at Hope Hospital in West Africa to fulfill her dream, she encountered more death and dying than healing. Malaria and drought almost killed her body, again.
I recently read Well: Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa (FaithWords, 2017) relating Sarah’s three months in Togo. When she described her physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles, I found myself joining her in the many questions she pondered. Is love enough? Why do we allow suffering that we can alleviate? How should white workers relate to ethnic nationals in expressing faith and serving? What can we learn from death?
And, with so much pain, evil, and death in the world, what was the point of Jesus even coming to earth?
No Peace on Earth
We eagerly believe the Christmas songs that promise peace on earth and speak of Jesus’ birth bringing all people together. Isaiah spoke (9:6-7 ESV) words we love to quote during this season:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
The angels sang to shocked shepherds when Jesus was born (Luke 2:14 ESV):
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
But, every day, every news feed proves we are nowhere near peace on earth. In truth, Jesus clarified that political, global peace was never His intended mission. He said (Luke 12:51 ESV):
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
How can we call Jesus the Prince of Peace when He said division was sure to follow Him Jesus tried to explain true peace to His followers:
(John 14:27; 16:33 ESV) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
We have a hard time understanding this view of peace because it is more spiritual than practical or political. This peace Jesus talked about is an inside-out individual transformation that comes through a committed relationship with Him. People who embrace the supernatural work Christ offers are changed. They become the vehicles of peace that permeate families, communities, nations, and the world.
What Jesus offers is more freeing, more powerful than any military peacekeeping operation or world leader prescribing how to relate to other nations in peace.
The Real Reason for the Season
But back to the question: Why did Jesus come anyway?
Not only did Jesus’ coming not bring world peace, but people got sick, lived in poverty, experienced rejection and loneliness during His time on earth. Jesus did not heal or help every person within His reach.
In Thebarge’s book, Well, she asked questions in light of the unending suffering and death happening all around her in Togo. With so much left undone and broken when Jesus left earth and still today, what did it mean to have Jesus, Emmanuel (God With Us) come and live as a human?
The answer formed in her heart and mind this way (p. 294-295):
As I thought about it, the question became its own answer. Emmanuel’s value did not lie in what he did or didn’t accomplish while he walked the earth. What mattered was that he was here.
He was here.
Jesus’ presence mattered because it was a tangible reminder that we are not invisible to our Father. We are never lost to him, we are never forgotten by him, we are never abandoned by him.
When I read those words, I was gripped. Not for the first time, but in a renewed, powerful way, my head and soul recognized the real reason Jesus came at Christmas.
He came for ME!
He came close in human form and personally, graphically explained the depth of love God has for His creation, His children, for me. These words bring tears of gratitude and amazement each time I repeat them.
The world will always have trouble, death, suffering and no peace. Jesus did not make all the evil disappear. Instead He brought a way to endure hardship and earthly trials through His life and sacrifice, to find joy and personal peace. I have the privilege to live daily in connection to Him through the Holy Spirit, prayer, and His Word.
And, wherever I find myself, I will be present as He was, touching others’ lives, reflecting love and hope. I will point to Him as the reason for Christmas and tell others why He bothered to come.
♡ Gail Goolsby is a life coach and serves as a Titus Woman for Proverbs 31 Woman.
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