We have been looking at loss and suffering--very germaine topics in today's world. Let's look at America for a moment.
One argument against Jesus being the long-awaited Messiah is peace did not come to the world when He arrived nor when He left.
People still went to war, committed atrocities and destroyed everything in their path.
People persecuted each other and always found some group to blame for their woe, leading to all sorts of terrible behavior.
People's attitudes towards God, each other, the planet and morality have waxed and waned, with some problems being solved while others were created.
So, what difference did it make that Jesus came?
Well, look at America right now. God has been removed from every corner of public life. The songs played in stores at Christmas time are entirely secular, with an occasional carol thrown in, but that is quite rare. (If I hear "Last Christmas" or "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" one more time, I may not be responsible for my actions. Insert smiling emoji here.) We protested having the Ten Commandments removed from a park in Boise several years ago. Boise, Idaho, is not exactly a haven for liberal thought, and yet the monument was taken out.
Back when my kids were little, about 30 years go, the city I lived in, in northern California, passed an ordinance that prohibited the singing of any carols that mentioned "Jesus" in them. When one kindergartener asked to sing "Silent Night," the music teacher retorted that it was "illegal." I am not making this up--I was sitting in my daughter's class that day and watched this woman silence a little girl's request.
I was born in 1960. AD, not BC. I went to school in California, where, at Christmas time, we played with dreidels, sang "Hanukkah, O Hanukkah," had a Christmas tree in the class room, ate Christmas cookies and learned how to sing "Silent Night, Holy Night" in German.
God was an unseen presence in our country, where going to church was important, not swearing was equally as important and being kind was expected of everyone. Did everyone follow Christian morality and its values? Of course not. But God was still there, looking out for us. Maybe a kind of divine Policeman, who expected us to be good whenever and wherever we could.
My dad was a virulent racist and one angry hombre. My mom was an alcoholic. My brother was a sneaky violent young man, who got involved in drugs at a very young age, so no, we were not the Cleaver family, and Father didn't always know best. We stopped going to church when we were very young. But God was still there, in the culture, in the larger picture, even if my parents didn't reflect knowing Him in their daily lives.
When I was little, we celebrated the birth of Jesus and sang Christmas carols about Bethlehem, three kings and a little baby in our home and in our culture.
Yet over the decades, God has been marginalized a little more every year. Usually diversity, not favoring any religion or not wanting to offend others has been the reason, and so nativities, monuments and overt references to God have gone the way of the buffalo.
If Christianity is mentioned now, it's usually in disparaging terms--anti-this or that, or responsible for all societal ills.
So, look at America now, with God having been removed from the culture: Angry protestors take to streets to burn, kill and destroy. Lawlessness in the new law, and the police are told to stand down. Respect? Nah--that's just an old Aretha Franklin song. Name-calling, false accusations, half-truths and constant bashing of certain groups is an everyday occurrence now. Now even our election process, our democracy, is in jeopardy. Wow.
I have watched God be removed from public over the last 50 years, and our society has not improved. In fact, it's far worse.
Jesus came to bring a light to a dark empire, where blood sports, infanticide, child marriage and homosexuality, infidelity, and slavery were part of the everyday way of doing life.
Without Jesus and what He brought--a value of loving God, ourselves and our neighbor, darkness would still be our everyday, every decade, every millennium.
I am watching America return to a pre-Christian place, a kind of new Roman empire. We need Jesus to come and bring His light into our lives even more than ever, into our culture, into our leaders, whether in church or in the public sphere.
A society where the self is god is going to be ugly, for the self is ugly. Jesus brought us hope for a new self, one where God's love and law is written on the heart.
America is standing at the crossroads. We can either rock around the Christmas tree, or follow the star to a Baby whose life will change ours.