When we reflect on Christmas, I think of how Christmas is one of the stable constants in life. Every year trips, and holidays are centred around it. Dinners are planned, gifts are bought, and the turkey is cooked. Every year the same rituals of Christmas are observed and passed down in the same fashion. Christmas comes every year, at the same time every year, to do the same thing every year. In essence it can be repetitive.
With Christmas being this constant in our life, it can be difficult to evoke the same feelings year after year. What was once filled with hope, allure, and love as a child can give way to a busy, listless and forced celebration…
In this avoidance of cliches the temptation is to shun the meaning on which it was built. This meaning is often thought to be mundane and repetitive, and instead discover in a new way to be filled with emotion and sentiment. We long once again for the ‘magic’ of Christmas in a way that evokes the same feelings as children.
We strive then to recreate this ‘magic’, in various ways, finding the value of Christmas in the things that we do. For some, it’s in the presents striving to find the perfect gift. For others it’s preparing the tastiest Christmas dinner, spending hours to gain the verbal approval of others. For more it is in the company, working tirelessly to host the flawless event. There are more examples still, and it is all too easy to justify spending countless amounts of money, time, energy in order to make Christmas ‘perfect’ again. The need for Christmas is too often in the vague confirmation of emotion that it was indeed special.
When Christmas is about sentiment and emotion, the true value of the celebration is lost. It is easy to become tired, bored and stressed striving for a happiness that will not satisfy. When much expectation is met with little time, frustration ensues.
And so I ask you this Christmas season, are you tired? Are you spent? Are you burned out?
I would say rest, rest not in the mere emotions evoked, but in the deep valued tradition of the Covenant fulfilled through Christ incarnate.
Christmas is not a holiday found for mere tingly feelings of warmth, love, family, unity and other abstract terms, but instead is one founded steeped in this tradition, a tradition that celebrates the crux of Christian (and world) history.
When we talk of the true meaning of Christmas, it is not one of trees, lights, presents and time well spent with family. It is not of carols, christmas movie classics, and lebkucken. It is not is poinsettias, candle lights, and eggnog.
Though it can be all of these things, these things are not the main thing, and if we choose to focus on these things, we will miss the aim of Christmas altogether. The magic of Christmas is not found in fond memories of Christmas past, nor hope to a wonderful one for the future. It is found in the tradition of remembering a promise fulfilled, assurance found, and confidence confirmed in a baby boy.
The depth of tradition is especially fond when we remember the unique glory in which our saviour came. That the unique glory of christmas is found in a celebration of life, a life borne destined for death so that death itself may no longer sting. It is in this balance, a celebration of a life that was meant to die that we hold the meaning of Christmas to it’s firmest foundation. The balance is found not only in life itself, but also in the awareness of death, “mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die” this is to remember Christmas. That our saviour born, the messiah in unique human flesh, both fully God and fully man, lived and breathed among us. That a carpenter from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, lived a remarkably unremarkable life, for the purpose that we ourselves might live forever before a holy and just God.
The haunting reminder of the victory won, In O come O come Emmanuel, rings especially true:
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
The depth in metaphor is found in the contrast of the darkness of death, to what is the brightness of, our Dayspring, Christ, the dawn ushering in a new order of light.
Yet this contrast can only occur in an awareness of both sides of the extremes. Having known a long winter’s night, do we appreciate the break of day. The warmth of the rising sun is all the more felt after the cold clammy tentacles of darkness have given way to the piercing rays of light. The spring thaw is more appreciated after a cold bitter winter than a mild one. The salvation from death is more appreciated in full knowledge of the hell from which were saved.
We cannot ignore the reality of death, and the sin from which it came. We can not ignore us as the originators of sin, the rebellious against God. We can not ignore the threat of hell and the eternal separation from God that exists within it. To ignore it would be to ignore value in the glory of Christ.
And so I would ask you again, are you aware of this depth? Do you value this contrast? Is this the glory you find in Christmas? Do these things weigh on your heart?
The glory of christmas exists because God has done it, he has won victory over grave. The messiah has come, the promise is fulfilled. The covenant is brought forth, and no longer will death reign over us. The threat of eternal separation from God has evaporated. Christ is born, God is near.
The glory of Christmas that the glory of Christ shown on the cross, a blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). Thus, The darkest hour is past, the gloomy clouds have fled, the shadow of death is gone. The dawn breaks through, the son is risen.
Our God is much too grand to only celebrate Christmas for ourselves, Our God has also done a great thing. That in the depths of His love he would send His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
One of my favourite verses I’ve been meditating on recently has been Isaiah 49:6 and It reads:
He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
To revel in Christmas, is not revel in the small things of ourselves. It is too small a thing to revel in the simple celebrations of Christmas. It is too small a thing to only want a happy holiday. Let us revel in the deep, deep love of our God.
That he extends His grace and mercy to all those who would believe, so that His salvation would reach the ends of the earth. No one is too far, not one past the point of no return, our God is mighty to save.
In this Christmas Season, I ask you this, is this your rest? Is this your firm foundation, that Christ alone paid the penalty on the Cross? Is this what you will stand upon? That the promise for the forgiveness of sins was sealed in the birth of Jesus? Do you want peace everlasting?