The bright, shiny lights of the Christmas tree are up. The newly wrapped gifts have been carefully placed underneath. The stockings have been hung by the chimney with care, but it’s not always St. Nicholas who arrives, but the Grinch!
Christmas can be a weird time. We can go into debt, spending what we don’t have, over guilt for something that happened years ago, all in the name of Christmas. We start to get convinced that if Meghan doesn’t get that desired expensive gift, all will be lost. Or we can look at our forlorn little tree, frustrated that yet another year goes by and we have no one to share it with. There’s the competing demands of different family members who all want a piece of us at Christmas time. And that’s before we add to the mix the rude, drunken relatives some of us have to endure, or the family wars that can break out over Christmas dinner. Always special.
Christmas can also be a time for comparing. Look at those crazy Jones’, we think. They’ve got lights that are timed to music! They seem to have so many fun parties going on that I’m never invited to. Every year their kids get the latest and greatest things. They seem so happy. Why can’t I have that, too? Never mind that the Jones’ could’ve maxed out their 8th credit card and may be swimming in debt up to their eyeballs! We can get so caught up in looking at the mirage of Christmas all around us, we forget to look at what is real, what truly matters.
So what is real? What does matter? I’m glad you asked …
Jesus. It sounds way too simple. Trite, even. We’ve all heard it a million times. Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem for a census, but since there were so many people doing the same thing, the Inns were all full. Mary started was going into labor, so they found a stable they could stay in, and she gave birth to Jesus in a dirty barn full of animals. So what’s the big deal?
I want you to think about the most important, wealthiest, most accomplished and powerful person in this world that you know of. Now, think of that person making a decision to leave behind all their wealth, all their privilege and worldly power, and, assuming they could, decide to come back to this world as the child of a working class teenaged mother married to a blue-collar man, and to willingly be born in a barn. Oh, and you’re going to grow up and get persecuted, beaten and murdered. I can’t think of anyone volunteering for that role.
Yet God did. He sent a piece of himself to live here, on our beautiful but broken planet, and to enter this realm in the humblest manner possible. Jesus chose to leave his throne, to allow himself to be completely dependent on humans for a time, and to dedicate his life to their spiritual and emotional rescue. He didn’t just do this for mankind. He did this for me. He did this for you.
Christmas, at its core, is about taking time to acknowledge a love that runs so deep, there is nothing it won’t sacrifice. For that little baby would grow up to be a man, and that man would devote his life to teaching you and me how to be healed and whole from the inside out. He would commit every fiber of his being to helping us reach a kingdom so beautiful and rich, it will never perish and fade. This love for you and me was so strong, that eventually that man would allow himself to be sentenced and executed in our place so we would no longer have to bear the weight of our guilt and shame. He died for our freedom. He died for our peace. He died for our right of passage. And he allowed himself to be born here so he could give us those things.
That’s the true meaning of Christmas. Honestly, we don’t need a special day to acknowledge it. A tree really has nothing to do with it. The presents are meant to represent birthday gifts, a symbol of Jesus coming here for us, not a vehicle for more credit card debt and stress. It’s highly unlikely Jesus was even born on Christmas day. Still, when you awake on that morning, the day that for whatever reason the world has chosen to set aside to remember the virgin birth, make time to reflect on the amazing love your God has for you. Remember you are never truly alone, even if you have no one around you. No one can take this love from you—not the credit card companies, your crazy family members, or even the Jones’ next door. It is your precious gift, a prize beyond measure. It is God’s deep and abiding love for you, sent down to this earth in the humblest manner possible so you and I would know there’s nothing God wouldn’t do to win our love. Remember—you are blessed.
For Further Thought: “The people who had been living in darkness have seen a great light. The light of life has shined on those who dwell in the shadowy darkness of death. And You, God, will make it happen. You bolstered the nation, making it great again. You have saturated it with joy. Everyone in it is full of delight in Your presence, like the joy they experience at the harvest, like the thrill of dividing up the spoils of war. For as You did back in the day when Midian oppressed us, You will shatter the yoke that burdens them, You will lift the load that weighs them down, You will break the rod of their oppressor. It’s true. All the fabric of war will go up in flames … there will be a new time, a fresh start. Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,a child is born, sweet-breathed;a son is given to us: a living gift. And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great. The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders. His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:2-6). This Christmas, take time to remember and to rejoice in the true gift you have received: the salvation of your soul from your Father in Heaven.