With it being the week of Christmas, it is only fitting that this blog entry is about Jesus’s birth. Whether you think/believe it is the actual date of Christ’s birth or not, is irrelevant; the meaning of Christmas still stands. The point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who would go on to make the ultimate act of love by saving us all--if we should choose to accept Him.
The Christmas story is so much more than just a month out of the year where we give presents, hang up lights, sing the same songs that we sang last year, and everything else we do during this season. The story of Christ and His birth shook the very foundations of the world through love, and it is that love that Christmas is about. How God has given us the greatest gift we could ever receive, and that we are entirely undeserving of it.
1) Immanuel: God with us
We see the beginning of the story of Jesus and His birth mainly at the start of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both illustrate the Christmas story that so many of us know: that Mary gave birth to Jesus in the stable, that the wise men found Him and worshipped Him, King Herod searching for Jesus to kill Him but failing, and all the other amazing parts of Christ's Nativity.
The importance of this event, however, is more fully realized in the beginning of John’s Gospel. John begins by illustrating who Christ is in essence: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4). John is speaking of Jesus, and establishes that Christ has always been--since He was with God and is God--and therefore will always be. The deity of Christ is immediately established, and states that all things were made through Him, and nothing was made without Him. Clearly, these characteristics can be attributed to none other than God alone, and to make such a claim is either placing something that is not God at the level of God--which is blasphemy (*medieval voice)--or means John is trying to get us to understand that Jesus is God.
Once this is realized, the power of Christ’s birth is given all the more meaning. Jesus’s birth signifies the ultimate commitment from God to us: that He loved, and loves, His creation (us humans) so much, that He was willing to come down from the heavenly places and enter into humanity as One of us. This destroys every false concept we have created towards our Creator; those concepts being that He is far-off and distant, callous to the world we live in and careless to whatever happens in our lives. Jesus Christ being born, and having actually existed, means that God is so much more intimate than we can understand. The fact that God even decided to use a human to give birth to the Son of Man, is an incredible statement of intimacy towards humans, and a pure desire to work through people. This is why God said Jesus would be called Immanuel: “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23).
And while this reason-for-the-season is at the heart of every good thing and blessing that enters into our lives, God’s full grace and power is not realized until you humble yourself before Jesus, and ask for forgiveness. God did not come down to us just to smack us on the hand and tell us how bad of a job we’ve been doing of following Him--Moses and the Law already do that. The Bible makes His reason clear: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Do I need to go into why we need saving?
If this is an answer you have trouble finding, then I challenge you to stop reading this right now, go into a room by yourself, close the door behind you, find a place to kneel at, and then pray this with all your heart, soul, and mind: “Jesus, if You are true, show me who You are.xx Seek and continue seeking God, and you will find the answers you’re looking for deep down.
2) God is still with us
The past year has been a difficult period for many people, and in many ways, it brought about new pains and hardships that we didn’t know could exist. For some of us, this Christmas season might be more of a season of fear and uncertainty, rather than a time of joy and peace. The struggles we face in life are very real, as well as the difficulties we deal with inside ourselves. The Christmas season is supposed to be a joyful time, but it can also be a mask that covers up deeper issues we are dealing with. For some, this might be loneliness; others, it may be family conflict--the list can go on. And with these deeper underlying problems, sometimes a season like Christmas only serves to magnify the pain, especially when we compare our situation to others, or see how happy or joyful other people are.
It is important to understand that pain is a part of this world, and no holiday season is going to make that reality any different. For all our lives, we will have to face trials, hardships, and suffering--that is a guarantee. But how we deal with these challenges is what makes us who we are, and no matter what difficulty we might be trying to overcome, there can be a season of joy and peace within our hearts that never ceases. It is this relentless season that God is trying to cultivate within our hearts; that we would live our lives free from the chains this world has to offer, and walk in a new light. A light that does not stop giving, even when the Christmas season is over. A light that takes our troubles of the heart and carries them for us, and matures us to a place of peace and humility.
Christmas is the day where we celebrate the entrance of the great Light that shone into our world. The perfect embodiment of what it means to love God and to love one’s neighbor, was made flesh in Jesus Christ and born into our world as a simple baby. The One who was and is and is to come, humbled Himself before humanity and entered our world as a helpless infant. Imagine that: the Being with all power and authority in His hands stooped down to our level, and personally entered into the mess of our world. And through God’s perfect plan, Jesus eventually made His way to the ultimate destiny of the Cross, and there gave His life for all. It is His sacrifice at the Cross, and our faith in it, that allows God to fully enter into the mess of our own worlds, and bring the change He wants into them.
Jesus entering into our world does not signify that God had never been amongst us prior to that point; and with Him leaving, it does not mean God is gone. God is still with us--and always has been--and the work of the Cross is still very much alive through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is constantly working in the hearts of humans, and continues to give gifts every moment of every day. The greatest gift to be received is Christ’s gift of salvation--there is nothing that compares. But the fact that this reality is so shrouded by the lies and deceit of this world, is a tragedy that only God can overcome. Yet God can overcome; and He can in my heart (which He has, and continues to do) and He can in your heart. But God is supremely loving, and without your partnership, He cannot change your heart and begin to bring you closer to Him.
3) The Greatest Gift has been given; all that's left is for you to receive it
I pray this Christmas is one of joy and peace for you, and if it is not (or even if it is), I pray that you would receive God’s greatest gift found in Jesus. The world can say what it wants to about Jesus, and as someone once said, “They can dance all they want on the grave of Jesus. He is not there.” The world cannot change the need for purpose and meaning in our lives. To receive the gift that Christ has already purchased and wrapped, is to receive the life of purpose and meaning that God wants in our lives--a life so full of His love, joy, peace, and hope, that we cannot help but try and bring it to others.
This is the gift that keeps on giving, and Jesus Christ will continue to give far beyond any Christmas season, and far beyond what you are expecting. There is power in His name to overcome any trial, any temptation, and any difficulty we are facing. I pray this Christmas we accept, and grow deeper in, this gift of grace, and that God’s love would pour forth out of our hearts and into the world around us. Merry Christmas, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).