My car radio is currently tuned to a station that plays Christmas music. I love Christmas music. I love the jingle bells, the tradition, the nostalgia…and yes, I even love the imaginary world of sparkling, snow-covered trees, and horse-drawn sleighs. (I realize that in some parts of this country, this is a reality. But, having never lived in a state where Christmas day temperatures dip below 70º, I am perpetually dreaming of a white Christmas!)
But, sometimes, I find the incongruity of it all just a little…absurd.
One moment, the mood is whiney and self-centered, as the “singer” (and, I use that term oh-so loosely!) begs Santa for the expensive, extravagant items on her Christmas list. All of which she, of course, feels entitled to, because she has been “an awful good girl.” (Although this song is among my least favorite, it is, sadly, a very accurate commentary on our culture’s self-centered, materialistic view of Christmas.)
In the next moment, the mood is reverent, and profound, as the words point back to that moment, long ago, when God Himself took on flesh, and became man.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
The sheer depth of theology and doctrine contained in those 3 lines…
And, then, just like that, the story of this tiny baby, the Son of God born as a man, is once again lost in the excitement and allure of celebrity…as the all-knowing, ever-watchful Santa Claus rides into town.
Illusion and sentimental tradition at odds with eternal Truth.
Yes, it is highly unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25th. Scholar’s estimates on the date of His birth range anywhere from March to September. The December 25th date was used, as was often done, to “christianize” a pagan celebration – in this case, the winter solstice. It was proclaimed to be a “Christian” holy day by the Roman Catholic church. And, no, nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to “celebrate” the birth of Christ.
And, I realize that, for those reasons (among others) there are Christians who choose not to celebrate Christmas. Generally speaking, I respect their convictions, though I do not always agree with how or why they came to some of these conclusions.
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” ~Romans 14:5-6
As a family, we do not participate in some traditions, while still enjoying others.
But, we have chosen to observe this day – to celebrate on this day (December 25th)in honor of the Lord…
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ~Isaiah 9:1, 6
With the shepherds, we rejoice…
“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” ~Luke 2:10-11
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” ~Luke 2:20
Because we see God-become-man:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” ~Colossians 1:15
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” ~Colossians 2:9
And, we celebrate the hope:
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” ~Matthew 1:21
“Jesus is like us in every aspect of our humanity – in all the mundane, glorious, and impolite aspects of the human existence. He had all the weakness and desires that make us human; he was tempted in every respect as we are. The difference is that Jesus was without sin. And it was his sinless perfection that made it possible for him to pay for our sins.” ~Joshua Harris (Dug Down Deep, pg 84, emphasis added.)
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~2 Corinthians 5:21
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
What we remember at Christmas is the incarnation of Jesus Christ – “holy and human, right from the start.”
We celebrate His birth, yes. But, more than that…
We celebrate His sinless life.
We look to the only perfect sacrifice for our sin.
We look ahead to the cross.
We rejoice in the resurrection.
And we live, not just one day, but each day, in that hope… In the light that was shined into the deepest darkness of our sin.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” ~Philippians 2:5-11
And, that is what it is all about. Ultimately, it is about the Name that is above every name.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ~Acts 4:12
That is why we celebrate.