Real Faith for a Real Life in a Real World.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So This is Christmas...

The original Christmas, when God gave his Son to the world, is arguably the most momentous event in history.  Yet, in our modern world, the season is almost entirely devoid of its real significance: its true meaning has been buried under a landslide of glitter! Transient pleasure has become the focus whereas the real meaning encompasses our deepest need and highest purpose.

The predominant atmosphere is one of jollity and fun.  The shops are full of tinsel and music and the chirping of cash registers.  Christmas is a time for children, family gatherings, parties and revelry; for giving and receiving gifts.  Even so, for others it is a crippling expense, a rekindling of family feuds.  For some, the merriment casts their hopelessness into such stark relief that it becomes the time when they are most likely to commit suicide…

Christmas should fill us with hope.

Isaiah foretells a human child who would be called ‘Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.’  He would be the ‘Wonderful Counsellor’, well able to help and guide needy people, and the ‘Prince of Peace’, who would reconcile God and man (Is. 9:6). 

It is mind-boggling that God’s Son identified with our human condition so completely, retaining no special advantage.  He ‘… made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.’  Jesus came as a real human baby and, like us, he would have cried, suckled, had the same bodily functions, cut his teeth just as painfully, and kept his parents awake at night.  He experienced all the trials of humanity.  His family was lowly, his parentage questionable.  His homeland was under military occupation and its politicians duplicitous.  He faced immense personal pressures, being ‘tempted in every way, just as we are—yet … without sin.’ (Heb 4:15).

If God became flesh and dwelt among us in such a way, it must have been with very good reason.  Our highest purpose is to glorify God, to know him and enjoy him forever.  We were designed to live in relationship with him.  God is the context we need truly to enjoy the world he gave us. 

Our trouble is that we have taken ourselves out of context; declaring our independence, we make our own decisions about how to live.  We take liberties with God-given delights.  Eating is enjoyable but our gluttony leaves millions starving.  Sex in a loving marriage brings pleasure but we take it wherever we can at the expense of ourselves and those we exploit.  Comfort is desirable but we amass transient possessions to the neglect of eternity.  Serving others brings fulfilment but we serve ourselves and leave others in want.  We love ourselves more than our neighbour and disregard God completely.  Our highest purpose is beyond our grasp.  Our deepest need is for a saviour who can rescue us from our predicament.

Christ came to Bethlehem with Calvary in mind.  He was given ‘the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Mat 1:21).  At Calvary, Christ gave his life for ours and now all who depend on him find the Father’s welcome.  Our deepest need is met and our highest purpose is once more attainable.

We have so much because of Christmas: God’s Spirit within us, strength for today and the brightest of hopes for tomorrow; joy in this life, even amidst its troubles, and everlasting treasure in heaven!  This Christmas, let us seek to bless those in our world for whom Christmas holds no joy.  May all our celebrations, our giving, and our hospitality, be permeated with the joy and generosity of spirit that flows from above.