Somebody Loves Me…At Last"May the brilliant light of Jesus Christ burn away all the chaff and dross of the past and empower you to live life anew."
Long ago, in an isolated corner of the world, when we least expected it and in a way that no one could have anticipated, the Creator of the universe reached down and inserted Himself into history. He did this by giving the world His own Son. On that day, God proclaimed in a fashion He never had before His boundless love for all humanity. He declared through the birth of that tiny baby in Bethlehem that He’ll never abandon us. He was assuring you and me that He’ll never walk away when we need Him. He was taking us into His arms and gently whispering that He’ll always be there and that He’ll always understand.
In a world where acceptance is a rare commodity and where divisions of every kind conspire to prevent us from communicating with, much less caring for, one another, a message like that strikes the human heart like a lightning bolt. It obliterates our greatest fear and meets our deepest need. After all, we all want to be loved. And yet there are far too many people who never realize how much God really loves them.
In 1976, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was on every front page in America. She was only 17 years old and she had tried to assassinate the President of the United States. As they interviewed her, law enforcement officials discovered that she was proud to be a disciple of the crazed killer Charles Manson. Investigators listened as Lynette related her personal story, in which she wandered aimlessly across the country, looking for someone who would love her. When she met Manson and he promised to take care of her, she responded instantly. Her devotion to him was so great, in fact, that she would eventually prove willing to kill and even die for him. “Why would you give your life to a man like Manson?” they asked. Lynette answered, “Whoever loves me first can have my life.”
Sadly, the situation hasn’t changed. The same feelings of loneliness, the desperate yearnings for acceptance, are still widely felt in the world today. According to the internet market research firm YouGov, for example, “the social media generation is the one that feels the most alone.” YouGov reports that there has been a dramatic surge in loneliness among millennials, with 30% reporting that they feel lonely either always or often. Given that loneliness tends to trend upward as people increase in age, such an uptick among younger adults is cause for deep concern.
It’s because of just such emptiness that the message of Christmas is so important, and why it touches our hearts and minds so powerfully. The story of Christ’s birth can trigger the sudden realization that someone truly cares, and once we take that in, an almost inexpressible joy begins to well up inside of us. Even when everything around us points to disappointment and devastation, the miracle of Christmas turns us 180 degrees, confidently assuring humankind that we are not alone, that we are fully recognized and that we are unconditionally loved.
No wonder we find ourselves at a loss when we excitedly seek to describe who Jesus Christ is. We’re struggling to express what is ultimately inexpressible. He is Lord, Savior, Messiah, Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. But even these titles don’t go far enough. In fact, no one name can fully capture either His significance or our delight at His arrival.
For the prophet Malachi, who lived almost 400 years before the birth of Christ, Jesus was the “sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2, NIV). And for us today, that’s righteousness with a capital “R.” Because it’s not just that Jesus Christ was righteous. It’s that He is Righteousness itself. And the light that came into the world when He was born is akin to the brilliance of a morning sun as it breaks over the horizon of a darkened creation. Jesus Christ rises to illuminate and cleanse the world, simultaneously revealing its sin and bringing hope to all those who had waited breathlessly for His appearing.
Christ’s birth was proof of God’s unconditional love, and just realizing that causes our hearts to jump. It awakens in our inmost being a spirit of joy and a lasting sense of our inherent value. We are suddenly reminded that, despite all its problems, the world is still a wonderful place. We’re reminded that there is always hope.
The poet Christina Rossetti wrote:
Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas.
Star and angels gave the sign.
That despair is infectious comes as a surprise to no one. We’ve seen it spread and felt its devastating effects. But Christmas is proof that hope can spread even faster. The sure and certain hope of the Christ child is enough for anyone, regardless of their circumstances, to stand and joyfully shout that their search has come to an end, and that they never need to be alone again. They can declare without hesitation that “Somebody loves me—at last!”
May this Christmas find you joining the chorus of those who can make that declaration. May Christmas be for you and those you love a time of healing and renewal. May the Sun of Righteousness rise today in your heart and in your home. May the brilliant light of Jesus Christ burn away all the chaff and dross of the past and empower you to live life anew.
Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder is the National Commander for The Salvation Army in the U.S.