It's only a few days until Christmas...are you ready?
Are the decorations all hanging correctly, parties planned, gifts bought and wrapped, dinner menus planned out...? What about your clothes? Are you 'dressing in festivity?' Make sure your office space is appropriately cluttered with Christmas trinketry and plenty of colorfully wrapped candy. After all, your desk is just another version of a Christmas tree that you can actually sit and work at...right? Last minute gifts...do you have them? The malls shouldn't be too crowded. If you arrive by 4:00 AM, you can probably secure a great parking place less than two miles away...so don't worry. In the middle of all of this planning and preparation, don't forget all of the family and friends that will inevitably be a part of your holiday situation. They're coming, and they're probably bringing their kids. Put grandma's breakable Christmas plates from 1960 back in the box...do it now.
I love Christmas, and I even love most of what I've mentioned above. I love to go to the malls and hear Christmas music playing while people search for just the right gifts. I love to see kids sitting on Santa's lap negotiating their wish list and telling boldface lies about their behavior over the past 11 months. I love time with family and buying gifts for those who are important to me. It makes my heart smile to watch them open these gifts. The wonderment of a Christmas gift surpasses age, as a gift generates the same responses in young and old alike. I love the food offerings that are presented over the Christmas season. Basically, I love it all.
Many years ago, a small child was born. His birth was humble, and given the location, His birth was unassuming of any greatness by mankind. His life would reflect the humility of His birth. As an adult, Philippians 2:7 tells us that He would become a man of no reputation...a 'nothing' among men. But on the night of His birth, all of Heaven knew differently. In Luke 2, we see that a multitude of angels could not restrain their song in the celebration of the birth of the One they knew to be Savior, Lord and King. It wasn't such a silent night after all. Over 2,000 years later, we still sing the praises of that little baby boy, Jesus Christ, who would be Servant, Sacrifice, Savior and King.
Over the years, Christmas has taken on a different meaning to me. In my youth, I knew what Christmas really meant. I knew that it was all about Jesus, but I would wrap myself in the traditions of Christmas so tightly that Jesus really didn't have any room for influence. In those days, it was all about gifts and family. It was about trips to Tennessee, snow and the simple fun of the holiday routines that played out year after year. Today, my mindset is much different.
Four decades into my life, I have finally realized what the phrase 'Jesus is the reason for the season' really means, and frankly, it's not as beautiful as we have all been taught to presume. Visions of a newborn in a manger evoke lovely thoughts of Christ's humble entrance into our world. We sing "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger," and we wrap ourselves in gentleness of this precious moment. However, the moments that really reveal the true gift of Jesus are yet to play out, and they are not so pretty...
To enter our world, Christ had to leave the majesty and perfection of Heaven, and He had to leave God the Father. It's important to note that Christ didn't leave Heaven and arrive on earth with majestic fanfare. He was not born into earthly privilege. Christ entered our world as a servant, coming to seek and save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) He was birthed as a mortal man, and through that human birth, we find a baby that would suffer through the pains of existence just as you or I do today. He would feel pain, He would thirst, He would hunger, and He would grow weary.
Throughout his life, Christ would have nowhere to really call home. Luke 9:58 tells us that He had nowhere to lay His head. He lived the life of a wanderer, traveling on a divine mission to evangelize those He so compassionately left the splendor of Heaven to save. He was ridiculed and scorned. His greatest enemies came from inside the church. As I mentioned before, He was a man of no reputation. He was a man who's life could be bought for thirty pieces of silver. He become nothing, served humbly, loved unconditionally, and flawlessly, and without sin, He would set the example that we should hold in highest regard today.
His journeys were long, tiring and selfless. He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the lame to walk and even raised the dead, yet His message and works were diminished by those who sought to do this man of innocence great harm. So, as a human, He would certainly hurt, hunger and grow weary...and He would also bleed. Mankind saw to that personally. This precious baby, born into our world as a humble servant, would eventually embrace a cross on the behalf of all mankind. His death was long and painful, and it was reflective of His life...a life lived in humble servitude and sacrifice by One who deserved much better.
The Real Story of Christmas...
The real story of Christmas is devoid of trees, decorations and bright colorful strands of lights. It doesn't in any way involve the commerce of Christmas sales or shopping malls. Santa Claus has no place of relevance in the actual story of Christmas. The real story involves the Son of God presenting Himself as a gift to all humanity...a gift that humanity would callously abuse. The real story is one of the ugliness of sinful man perpetuating harm upon the innocent person of Jesus Christ. The real story is ugly, but there is beauty contained within, and that beauty is found only in the real gift of Christmas....
The Real Gift of Christmas...
The real gift of Christmas is Christ. More specifically, the real gift of Christmas is the completed work of Christ, a work which began at His birth and ended as He walked alive and well out of the grave...the living Savior, the Redeemer, and the resurrected King. He came to earth out of compassion and love, He was crucified on Calvary as my sin, and He walked out of the grave as my Righteousness. That's the real gift of Christmas.
Without the birth of Christ, there would have been no discipling of humanity, there would have been no Calvary, no sacrifice to pay the debt of sin that would eternally separate us from God, and without the birth of Christ, there would have been no resurrection of the same. With Christ's entrance into our world, He brought hope and salvation to all men who would make Him Lord. He is the gift, and He is the true reason we celebrate.
Don't let the weight of Christmas tradition crush your ability to understand the relevance of that baby you're singing about in church. He was much more than a baby in a manger...much, much more. Today, He's giving us the gift of intercession before Almighty God. He's still working on our behalf...still loving...still giving. One day soon, He'll return to collect His bride. We'll be ushered into the presence of God in a way and a timeframe that none of us could anticipate. All of the Christmas traditions that we revel in here on earth will fade away as we behold Christ as He really is...in all of His splendor, grace and majesty. Then and only then will we truly understand what an incredible gift He has provided to us. Then and only then will we really understand Christmas.
I look forward to that day. Until then, I will celebrate Christmas and enjoy the season, but I will always know that Christ is the only reason to celebrate. It is only through His completed work that Christmas can really be understood. In light of the gift of Jesus Christ, let me wish you a Merry Christmas, because Jesus truly is the reason for the season!
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Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!