Reflections on Christmas
This is a wonderful season. It’s Christmas morning, 2018 in San Diego. In my world, it’s usually in the 60°s F, with the occasional 78°, hot and dry Christmas Day. But today it is just 54°. Rain plays a melody on the metal chimney top and taps out a smooth rhythm upon a skylight. I love the cool temperature and the sound of a light rain, especially at Christmas time.
No one is coming over today and we are not going anywhere. We like to have our family gatherings on Christmas eve, so and my wife and I are just staying home to enjoy the glow of the fireplace warming the room. Flames murmur with a comforting whisper, adding voice to the melody of the rain, assuring that all is right. Our two yorkies are snuggled nearby. All is peaceful and calm providing me with some special time for reflection.
I have been pondering Christmas for a while now. General attitudes are so much different than when I was a kid in the 1950’s. (Oops, I just gave away my generational bias!) Christmas has become more and more commercialized with each passing year. The awareness and acknowledgement of the presence of God seemed to occupy a larger audience then than it does today.
I was looking for some Christmas themed images for a PowerPoint “Christmas Concentration” game that I created for our family to play. Players have to match images to uncover a puzzle and then solve the puzzle. I did a search with the keyword “Christmas” on a popular website that sells photos. I got a result that offered 10,000 pages of images (about 4,000,000 images). I didn’t have the patience to scan all of the pages, but out of the 5,000 or so images that I did scan, only about 6 of them had anything to do with Jesus or His birth. In order to find those images, I had to search, “Christmas Jesus.” I thought that Christmas is supposed to be His birthday, but everything else took over the search!
Can you guess the puzzle?
The celebration of Christmas seems to have had its origins within the community of organized religion as early as 70 AD. It has been subjected to a variety of changes in form over the centuries and was even banned in England in the 1600’s and by the Puritans in Boston in 1659. Many have held for some time that Christmas is just a melding of pagan rituals and celebrations with Christianity to appease people and make Christianity more acceptable to the masses. That certainly seems to be true in today’s society.
Some still bristle at the thought of any “religious” meaning of Christmas. Others, in an effort to return the “purity” of Christmas to its “original” intent, created the expression, “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season.” However, regardless of how you might feel about the history or validity of Christmas, the celebration and season still bears the name of Christ.
As we are all well aware, the birth of Jesus is a very polarizing issue. For centuries, the birth of Jesus defined a split in the timeline of the world. “BC” means “before Christ” and “AD” means “anno domini”, or “in the year of the Lord.” These designations have been replaced by the secular and scientific communities to “CE” and “BCE”, meaning Common Era and Before the Common Era. However, even though the attempt is made to remove God and Jesus from the human calendar, the birth of Jesus still remains the dividing line.
We celebrate the lives of historical figures, such as presidents, world leaders, inventors, innovators or those who have impacted human history. We celebrate their birthdays with legal holidays and tout their accomplishments and achievements. We honor them for how they have impacted our lives. In Christianity, the celebration of Christmas might be compared in a similar way. It is like the birthday parties that we have for friends and family.
When you are young, you can hardly wait for the next birthday. You are celebrated on your special day with cards and presents, and more privileges come with age. Then, as you get older, you want to start counting backwards! However, things are far different with the birthday party we call Christmas. Jesus is the one being honored, but we don’t give any gifts to Him. We celebrate by giving gifts to each other, ignoring the birthday boy!
Think about it. Imagine that you are 30, or 40 or 80 years old and you have a birthday party. The anniversary of your birth is being celebrated, not your actual birth. Friends come to celebrate bringing you gifts and cards. They celebrate you, and their friendship with you. You celebrate the relationships that you have built and the successes and milestones in your life. You have grown physically, emotionally and spiritually. You have survived another year and that is worth celebrating.
What else is different in the celebration of Christmas?
Only a few people knew who Jesus was and what He would become. He had humble beginnings at His birth, but God revealed Jesus to some nearby shepherds. They came to see Jesus before He was circumcised at 8 days old. Then they spread the news of His birth to all who would listen. A few years later, wise men (sorcerers and magicians) from the east, came to find Jesus as a young child. They knew Jesus to be the King of The Jews, and came to give gifts and worship Him. The shepherds and the wise men all worshiped Jesus at His birth for what He would become.
However, we keep Jesus as a helpless baby in this “party” we call Christmas. For the most part, the “Christian” world knows that Jesus is the reason that they are redeemed, but in this birthday celebration, there is little mention of the finished work of Jesus. The Christmas festivities continue to put us in the position of the shepherds and wise men who were looking forward in anticipation of the work of Jesus. However, we are now looking back at the redemption of humankind and the power and glory that God gave to Jesus because of the sacrifice of His life. Unlike the celebrations of famous and revered humans, the Christmas celebration doesn’t say much about what Jesus actually accomplished in His life.
It makes you wonder why the secular world gets so upset about acknowledging Christmas. Why are they afraid of a baby? The reason is that even though the Christian world may take Jesus for granted at Christmas, the secular world, headed by Satan, the prince of darkness, does not. Those spiritual forces have been on a two thousand year mission to discredit and ultimately remove all trace of Jesus from the planet. That is part of the reason that “BC” and “AD” are being replaced. These forces know the power that Jesus displayed against them. They know the implications of the life that Jesus lived and voluntarily laid down for humans and they don’t want humans to know about it. They see well beyond the birth of Jesus. That which Jesus accomplished is foremost in their awareness. They live in fear of the judgment of God because they and their human followers have rejected Jesus.
At Christmas let’s rejoice in the accomplishments of Jesus. Let’s delight in His flawless performance of the Law, His compassion and mercy and His ministry as the Healer of our bodies. Let’s also celebrate His work to take away our sin by making Himself a sacrifice to save our souls. Let us honor His total defeat of the forces of evil and sin. He gave His Blood and His life. He is resurrected from the dead and sits in Glory at the right hand of God. Jesus is our risen Saviour.
This is what the human spirit that rejects “Jesus, The Christ” fears: accountability for its sin. That is why it is more comfortable to keep Jesus as a helpless baby. As a baby He hasn’t accomplished anything. The adult human can look down upon the baby with an attitude of superiority which is one of the goals of the evil forces at odds with God. These forces will not succeed in their quest to suppress the end result of the life that Jesus led. But don’t further their goal by continuing to see Jesus as a helpless baby at Christmas.
Remember the finished work of His life at Christmas, not just His birth.
Jesus will set you free if you let Him !
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May the Lord bless you and keep you... Dr. Rich Masek
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BTW, The puzzle solution:
Do You Hear What I Hear?