In just over a week, parents will be rudely woken up by children eager to open presents, families will descend upon houses of relatives they haven’t seen for most of the year to exchange gifts and spend an afternoon catching up, maybe comfortably, maybe awkwardly, many people will attend church who don’t any other day of the year – hoping to get their token taste of religiosity for the year. Christmas is coming close and there’s nothing we can do about it. And 24 hours after it begins, it’ll be over and the kids will be counting down to the next one.
Australian society has a very particular view of Christmas, I think. We give Jesus a bit of credit for the day, but the biggest thanks he gets is from people who are grateful that celebrating his birth gets them a day off of work. Some of us go a bit further and we make sure we take time to celebrate Jesus’ birth by attending church. But what is the focus of Christmas for us?
I think for most of us, the answer is presents. We either immediately open them, or set about waking everyone else in the house up so we can open them. When I was about eight, I made bacon and eggs for everyone at about 5am and they all woke up because of the smell. It was the best idea I ever had. And it was all part of a plot to get presents, not anything to do with kindness.
Jesus seems to be as relevant to Christmas as the queen is to the Queen’s Birthday. No one cares about the Queen; they just want a day off.
Except, our society is wrong about Christmas and we’ve completely missed the point. We’ve taken something amazing and stuck it into a tiny box to be thought of only at one time of year. We look at the cute story about a couple thousands of years ago who travelled to Bethlehem and couldn’t find a place for the wife to give birth and so she gave birth in a stable. It’s such a nice story, isn’t it? The shepherds show up, and a while later so do some wise men. It’s lovely.
Apart from being lovely, though… It’s pretty simply put: EPIC.
We might not see it as more epic than Harry Potter battling Voldemort. But if that’s the case, then do we really understand what we are celebrating on Christmas day?
The Gospel we least use during Christmas time is John. We ignore it because it doesn’t really have much in it that fits in with the Christmas story. It tells us something that should blow us away, though…
John 1:14 says this:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word, that is Jesus, became flesh. God became flesh and lived among us. Consider that with me. Consider the fact that God, who is holy and perfect and defined by love so much that in one of John’s letters he writes that God IS love, came to live among people who have done nothing but reject him since the fall.
Consider what Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians… That Jesus is the image of the invisible God. For thousands of years people knew God through the promises he had made to them, through the sacrificial system he gave them, through the laws he gave them… and in Jesus, God became a person and our relationships with God could be personal.
Consider that God’s glory was not shown to us as the Jews of that time expected – he didn’t show up as a mighty king, he showed up humbly and lived humbly and died humbly. And in that – in that humility – we see the Father’s glory. It’s circular logic that would make no sense if God wasn’t God. But it does make sense, because in one born in the most humble of circumstances, God became flesh and we found life.
Consider that this child, born in a manger, grew up. He ditched his parents and hung out in the temple when he was 12. He worked as a carpenter until he was 30. Then for three years he preached, he performed miracles and proclaimed that the Kingdom was near. His life ended in the most grotesque of ways – on a cross.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word became flesh and died for us.
The Word became flesh and took on our sins.
Do you get how epic it is that God became flesh?
The King stepped down from his throne to live among the scum of the subjects. He cleaned up the mess we were incapable of cleaning up.
On Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God became flesh. We celebrate the birth of the only One who could save us. We celebrate that. It’s epic.
Enjoy time with your family, enjoy your presents, but please, please make Christmas about God showing up. Isn’t that the best present possible?
And for those of us who struggle with Christmas and find it to be a sad time, we can remember that it was the very first Christmas that brought hope to the hopeless. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is for the people who hate it the most. Christmas is for the hopeless, for the downtrodden, for those who just don’t know how to fix things. Christmas is the beginning of the repair of mankind’s relationship with God. There is hope.
God. Became. Flesh.