In case you missed it somewhere down the line – the Christmas holiday has been around a lot longer than the ACLU. In fact, Christmas is actually about the birth of Jesus. Even if Christmas isn’t about Jesus for you, His story is still the origin of what’s happening around you this December 25th.
Do you really know the story? I’ve been a Christian a long time but when I took a 20 question quiz on Christmas I found out that about half of my own ideas concerning the message of Christmas are about as far away from what really happened and WHY it happened as we are from Pluto.
Seriously, have you ever wondered why Christians make such a big deal about reminding everybody that Christmas is really about Jesus? I mean, even if you don’t believe as we Christians do, out of respect for our history that created this opportunity for you to spend too much on your credit cards once a year – why not take a minute and learn about the real message of Christmas.
It goes like this…
Jesus once explained that you could sum up the whole Bible with just two concepts: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and love others as you love yourself. He means that behind every story, behind every parable, every rule and every consequence in the Bible you will find these two principles. Everything goes back to humans needing to love God with all their being – but we see in our history, over and over again, that we really love our own desires more than any of us love God. And every description of human cruelty and avarice just demonstrates over and over again how we are fully willing to indulge ourselves and cut ourselves a break but we won’t do the same for others – particularly those people (you pick those).
Now the Christmas story really goes all the way back to the beginning. It is written that God created humans “in His image” back then. Our purpose for being made was to mirror the very nature of God. That means that I should be able to look at someone like, say…Brittney Spears…and honestly be able to say “Brittney acts just like God.” I should be able to listen to Barak Obama and without the slightest hesitation say “Obama only says things God would say.” I should be able to point to Denzel Washington and say “Denzel’s thinking lines up with God’s thinking.”
And I should be able to look in the mirror every morning and KNOW that I act and speak and think just like the Creator too – because that’s what I was built to do and be.
But I don’t. And neither does Brittney or Barak or Denzel Washington. Or anyone else you know for that matter. All of us have betrayed what we were built to be. Some in big ways, some in small – but great or small our thinking and our actions and our speech is distorted from what it was designed to be. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a “good” person or not. You’re still not “being” what you were meant to be. This is what separates us from God and this distortion is summed up by the Bible with the word “sin.” It’s not only axe murderers that are sinners – it’s Brittney and Barak and you and me too.
C.S. Lewis said we’re like little tin soldiers and “in each is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself; to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small.” (Mere Christianity, Touchstone Books, 1996, p. 155)
Of course, our culture has now reduced Christmas down to gift giving and family. There’s nothing wrong with gifts and everything right with connecting with our families – but this is not the message of Christmas. Even Christian churches are happy to dress up the kids as donkeys and sheep and wise men standing around a plastic doll in a cardboard manger – but too often they still shy away from the real message of Christmas.
You see, Jesus wasn’t just a baby born to an unmarried peasant girl in a war-torn land. Jesus wasn’t just a sweet child on a silent night either.
Jesus came to die!
I mean, how do you fix a mirror that’s distorted? There’s really only one way – smash it, melt it down and re-cast it. For us that means death. Since God is the source of life, if we’re cut off from Him then we’re dead, even if our hearts are still beating. That’s the difficulty we face as humans, no matter how nice we think we are. We’re distorted mirrors, broken beyond repair. It doesn’t matter if your distortion is less than mine, it’s still distorted. We’re useless as the mirrors we were made to be – and it shows everywhere on the evening news at 6.
But, you know, there is actually another solution. You can cover the distorted mirror with a perfect mirror. Then, whenever you look into it, you will see the proper image.
And this is the real story of the baby in the manger.
God Himself became a human child. As a human He was able to act and think and speak the way humans were supposed to act and think and speak. He could do this because He had no distortions and He could do it perfectly because He was God.
Then an amazing thing happened. After growing up and spending three earth shattering years saying things so profound we’re still talking about His words 2,000 years later – Jesus let Himself be led to a horrific death. He let Himself be smashed and melted down and re-cast the way we need to be. The way I need.
But Jesus had never sinned, never distorted the image of God. His mirror was perfect. But if the penalty for our distortion is death, and Jesus had never distorted anything – then how could He die?
Only by His own choice – unlike you and me! In fact, His death caused a cosmic collision between the “law of sin and death” as the Bible explains it and the life of God Himself. His death literally caused death to work backwards. This is why Jesus rose from the dead.
So this little child in a manger came to die. He came to die for you and me. He came to experience the smashing, the melting and the recasting that every distorted mirror needs to be set right. He came to experience what we could NEVER endure.
Jesus was born so that if we ask Him, His mirror can cover our mirror. This is the message of Christmas.
So, when you give your gifts on Sunday remember the gift God gave for you and me. Don’t let Christmas just water down to gifts and turkeys and visiting the grandparents. Even if you don’t believe what Christians believe – remember that Christmas is a Christian holiday because we believe Jesus came to die. Think about the power of a gift like Jesus – and let the real message of Christmas change what it means to you to give a gift in the first place.