Is what we are doing and celebrating even close to what was provided on that first Christmas?
For many this is a time of great expectation and various responses. For the ones giving gifts, there is a lot of time and effort put into determining the right gift. They are almost more excited about the gift than the one who will be receiving the gift. Kids are trying to be as good as they can so “Santa” will fulfill their wish lists. Both kids and adults hunt around the house and hack emails to get a hint of what they may be getting.
Others spend this season contemplating or arguing as to whether Christians should or shouldn’t celebrate this highly commercialized holiday. We ask, do we say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”? Is it completely pagan or an important day on the Christian calendar?
I believe that while we have many views, God had one view and intent for the first Christmas.
I believe that God was beyond excited to finally make good on His promised gift on the first Christmas. It had been 4,000 years in process! It was promised just when everything went wrong. (Genesis 3:15) Pain, shame, evil and fear were taking over but this promise would turn everything around. It was finally the right time and the right place for the best gift ever to be delivered.
On what we call Christmas, shepherds were the first ones to hear the good news from the angels saying, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10).” This gift was not just for the religious, pious, wealthy or the powerful. It was for everyone who would receive it. In the same way, John 3:16 says God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that no one would be eternally separated from Him, but that all who believe in Him could have eternal life.
Unfortunately the wrong message has gotten out — that God hates those who oppose His way or that He hates the liars, adulterers, homosexuals, adulterous, murderers, and etc. The truth is that God is presenting His gift and provision for everyone who would believe and receive it.
Instead of Jesus showing up in a fancy palace or holy place, He is born in obscurity in a manger but this does not lessen its importance. The angels further said, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
There is a misconception that the peace on earth they speak of means the world will be without war, crime or suffering. However, the peace they are singing about is peace between us (humanity) and God. Through Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection we can have peace with God by His grace. It is hard to speak of His birth without speaking of His life, death, and resurrection. Sort of like it is hard to talk about the Royals without mentioning they won the World Series.
Nonetheless, this peace is offered to everyone. It is something we cannot earn or be good enough to receive. It is for the worst of the worst, and the supposed best of the best. Ephesians 2:13-18 breaks it down well, but a few verses say, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace … He came and preached (and demonstrated) peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
ChristMas is “Christ in Flesh!” God wasn’t just talking love and redemption, He showed it over and over again. The Gospels and Epistles show us the greatest rescue and recovery mission known to humanity, but still many refuse and reject it.
For a follower of Christ, every day is Christmas. Even when the world is going crazy and terror is all around us, His peace, love and joy can still reign in our hearts and change our lives. Every day our relationship with God grows as we are continually transformed by His power and the many other gifts He provides.
I hope you receive God’s Extravagant Gift to you this Christmas — recognizing that God loves you so much He came to take away our sin, shame, failures and pain to give us new life and peace with God. Thankfully, we get to adjust our expectations and our response to God this Christmas.