At this time of year, the name of Jesus is mentioned a lot, as people think about the time of his birth. But how many think of the prophecies he made during his life on earth? His words in Luke 21 vv 10 and 11 could describe the times we are living in:
… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
At time of writing, the Ebola outbreak has killed over 4,000 people. Something that appeared to be limited to areas of West Africa is now becoming a global crisis. Could this be one of the “pestilences” Jesus described? Perhaps this seems a rather gloomy subject for a season when many people are planning celebrations. Yet the reality is that disease and other problems do not disappear just because people want to focus on having a good time. Healthcare workers are still tending the sick, families are still bereaved, parents are still worrying about their children, people are still having difficult times.
We can try to ignore all that if we are fortunate enough not to be affected ourselves. Or we can spare a thought for those who are suffering and try to help in some way. At this time of year, people are often more generous than they would be at other times, but the help they give is only a drop in the ocean. Jesus knew this too. He said to his disciples, “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26 v 11) Nobody had more compassion for people in need than Jesus, but he recognised that even the miracles he did would only last a lifetime. He wanted to give his followers everlasting life in a renewed and joyful earth. The good news is that he still does, and the signs of his return are all around us.