Saturday, December 22, 2012

Know Why You Celebrate

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4, NASB95)
Christmas is not about the living God coming to tell us everything's all right. John's gospel isn't about Jesus speaking the truth and everyone saying: "Of course! Why didn't we realize it before?" It is about God shining his clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations -and the darkness not comprehending it. It's about God, God as a little child, speaking words of truth, and nobody knowing what he's talking about. -- N. T. Wright, "What Is This Word?" (12-21-06)
Ever since I can remember, Christmas has been my favorite time of year. Not Christmas day so much as the whole of the season. Beginning shortly after Thanksgiving and running through the New Year, there seems to be something in the air, some vague notion of goodwill, happiness, a spirit of love and enjoyment of family and friends that isn't present the rest of the year. Yes, it could be my imagination, but I don't think so.

For quite a long time now, I have also had other thoughts during this time of year. Perhaps these are the result of my own personal growth, a bit deeper understanding of some things, and better insight into the whole of God's purpose in sending Jesus into the world. Whatever the reason, I have developed a counterbalance to the blithe celebration of the seasons, and it's a bit troubling.

N.T. Wright struck it dead on. It's this very point that sometimes flies over the heads of people who miss a great truth. In a season filled with happy times, parties, gift-giving, family meals, decorations, Santa Claus, parades, and a thousand glittering and twinkling things to strike awe in the eyes of any child, Christmas is all about a far more serious subject.

Without trying to spoil the celebrations going on, I am compelled to ask, "Do you really understand what this is all about?" It's not about Santa and a sleigh full of toys hauled across the globe to visit happy little children. It's not about family reunions, or lovers' gifts, or the trip to Grandma's house. It's not about tinsel, or trees, nor even feeding the hungry a turkey dinner. All those, and more, are fine and most wonderfully enjoyable, but they're not what Christmas is about. You have to stop for a minute and listen to the larger testimony of God's word.

You are lost in your sins, without hope, and destined for eternal punishment. There's not a thing you can do about it. But God can. He sends His own Son into this world to bring a light to our darkness. He comes bringing the sacrifice for sin, and it's Himself. Jesus willingly dies on the cross and you and I are washed clean, forgiven, and granted eternal life. We can celebrate, but we really need to know why. It's better than a big box under the tree or sparkling diamonds. God has delivered a gift nobody could buy and none deserve. Know why you celebrate the season.