Why the baby?
I haven’t felt much of the “Christmas Spirit” this year, and I’m not really sure why. This season of my life has been tough in general, but usually Christmastime brings great joy: All the lights and shiny things, giving the gifts, sharing the good food and good times… This year not so much. But today, I spent some time with a friend helping her get things ready for her Christmas, and when I went home and was mulling over all these things, I came to this:
Why do we celebrate Christmas? I know the Charlie Brown answer, but really—why do we care that a baby was born in a manger a couple millennia ago? We could talk about Isaiah 9, John 1, the story of his birth in Luke…
The story of this baby is a wondrous and beautiful one, full of angel praise and mysterious dreams. But this is really only part of the whole story of who Jesus is, and this is what matters. What makes this story worth telling is what happens after Chapter 1.
This baby born became a man who died, who lived again and received his crown as The King.
Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise of God; He is the Word made flesh; He is the embodiment of the Love of God that always was and always is and always will be. He came as a human child to grow up and become who he really is, and to fulfill the promise of reconciliation and to bring new life, so that we too could grow up and become who we really are, and become the fulfillment of God’s promise of Love to those around us.
When people talk about having the “Spirit of Christmas all year round” (thank you A Christmas Carol), they’re talking about unconditional, extravagant, beautiful, Capital-L Love—the kind of Love that God lavishes on his kids, the Love that Jesus himself is the absolute greatest proof of—not because he was a little boy born in a barn, but because he is the Son of God, who chose to die and rise again, to fulfill God’s promise to all his kids: The promise that He Is who He says; the promise that you are everything He says you are, and you can live this great story He’s written about you.
PS—If you’re breathing air, God considers you His kid, and all of this applies to You. ❤
* * *
And Now, if you need a little Christmas Pep, enjoy this Happy Christmas song:
* * *
Long lay the world in sin and error, pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
I was listening to this song the other day in my car. It’s an incredibly familiar song, so familiar I could sing it in my sleep. And yet on this day, when this song came on my Christmas playlist shuffle, God dropped an understanding on my head of these lines that has thoroughly ruined it for me (in the best way).
I always thought about this part as a poetic little description of the world’s need for a Savior. Now that’s probably still true, but even more true is this: The world was pining for the story which was spoken right out of heaven, which sin and error made us forget. This goes right in hand with what the Lord has been saying in our church body recently. It’s not that people were so horrible, but that they were so lost, so unaware of the worth they always had in the Father’s eyes, so unable to remember who they really were. For God so loved the world…
Jesus is the embodiment of the promise of God’s love. He is the hope and the grace for every soul to walk in the wonderful story God imagined for them before they were born.
This isn’t a new message. This is the Gospel, the eternal Word. This is what God has been saying all along. You are worth everything.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
If you’re thirsty for more, check out the latest sermons from Zion’s River here.
As I was driving home tonight, I thought about that young Jewish girl who became the mother of God Incarnate so long ago. She is revered, a heroine: The little woman who said yes to God, to the impossible.
Mary was not unaware of the trouble that saying yes would bring. She knew people would not understand. They might disbelieve and even shun her. She knew raising a boy called the son of God would be difficult, to say the least. She knew her life would never be the way she’d expected or imagined it would be. But still she said yes. Why? Because she believed the One who spoke, and trusted in His words.
We all have a chance to be like Mary.
We all come to that moment when the Word of God comes, and we have the choice to say, like her, “Let it be unto me according to your word.” Not because it’s easy, not because we’re not nervous nor even terrified, not because we’re perfect and flawless. We can say yes because “No word of God shall be impossible.” He who speaks is faithful, both to His word and to us. He already favored us and chose us; we have only to believe Him.
It’s the biggest holiday of the year, especially among those who believe. As many have noticed, there isn’t any outrageous war about saying the word “Christmas” as there has been in years past; people (on both sides) have gone quite the opposite direction, seemingly treating “Merry Christmas,” “Christmas Tree” and the like as benign and not so politically incorrect. Which has got me thinking: People celebrate Christmas with Santa Clause, giving gifts, and by singing songs about the ambiguous “holiday” season. Why do people celebrate this holiday yet attempt to ignore the sole foundation of it? There wouldn’t be a now-mythical Saint Nick without the God in whom the original man had faith to begin with. There wouldn’t be the giving of gifts with such great joy and generosity of spirit if it hadn’t been for the original and greatest gift since the creation of the universe: The Creator, giving Himself in the form of those He created, to fulfill perfectly the law once and for all with His blood; and also His ressurection and the gift of His Spirit thereafter to any and all who believe Him.
And the angel said to [the shepherds], “Fear not, for behold, I bring you
good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this
day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” ~Luke 2:10-11, ESV
If Christmas is only about the generosity and warm hearts of humankind, then indeed it can only fill one day a year, since the love and kindness of man has limits. If it is only about the man in the red velvet suit giving gifts to youngsters based on their nice or naughty deeds, then Christmas is at its most basic an “if-then” holiday, rooted in manipulation and the status quo. If it’s just an excuse to spoil the people one loves, then I wonder that one needs a designated day to do it, besides birthdays.
Some may think my comments brash, or my view overly dramatic. I would call the act of God stepping out of heaven and choosing to submit in the flesh to the laws He himself instituted rather dramatic. Maybe, because the story has become so common to us now, we miss how miraculous it really is. Maybe we’ve just forgotten why it happened in the first place.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall concieve and bear a son, and they shall call his
name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). ~Matthew 1:22, ESV
Christmas is about God’s fulfillment of His promises; about His immeasurable love for every person, His power to accomplish what He has said. It’s more than a beautiful, warm-hearted story, more than an inspirational idea: It’s the truth, and it’s for joy and not condemnation that I’ve written what I’ve been thinking. I realized that if I believe all of this, if I believe God and all He’s done and is still doing, then I can’t celebrate Christmas like the world. I have a hope that goes beyond getting what I asked for, or even bringing joy to someone else by what I can give; I have hope that God has been faithful to every word He has ever spoken, and will be faithful yet.
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now
on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great
things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who
fear him from generation to generation…” ~Luke 1:46-50