Christmas is Dead. Long Live Christmas!
6 Reasons Why Christmas Should Still Fill Us with Awe
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Christmas is Dead.
In 2020 a young Pakistani man named Mohammad Hussain experimented with celebrating Christmas for the first time in Toronto. He remarked on his Twitter account: “Observation 1: Christmas is a part time job that you have from mid-November to the end of December.” The lights, the presents, the parties, the music, the customs… we can all feel the pressure. All these cultural expectations seem to promise more than they deliver. But maybe a more troubling note regarding cultural Christmas in North America was Hussain’s seventh observation:
Observation 7: The religious aspect of Christmas is optional.
I really like this one. If I was to suggest having a secular Ramadan to my mother she would have a heart attack. I will however be trying to get my family to do a Secret Santa for Eid. The name's being workshopped.
From a Western, cultural standpoint, Christmas as an institution celebrating Christ’s birth is nearly dead. But does it have to be? In the middle of all the running from store to store, and all the boxes and all the expectations, Jesus’ existence demands that Christians be awestruck over His birth. I propose six reasons the angels’ declaration of Jesus’ birth should still fill us with awe, wonder, and joy. Long live Christmas!
Reason 1: Jesus is a Planned Savior
In declaring that Jesus is born in the City of David, the angels point the shepherds back to all the promises of God to redeem his people through the Messiah. God sends His Son to crush the head of the serpent [Gen. 3.15] “while we were still weak, at the right time” [Rom. 5.6]. Even as a child, Jesus is the atonement and new creation the Father always planned for his people. Peter even states that Christ was given over to death for us “before the foundation of the world” [1 Peter 1.17-21].
Jesus is not a cosmic band-aid. His birth and death were the intended fulfillment of God’s covenants to His people. What an awesome truth to treasure in worship this Christmas!
Reason 2: Jesus is a Practical Savior
It’s certainly not true that Jesus’ humanity should be emphasized over – or instead of – His divinity. But, the simple fact that Jesus is human as much as He is God proves that God is near to us [Matt. 1.23].
He lived a real human life, with real human desires and trials and joys [Heb. 2.17]. Certainly all of this is without sin [Heb. 4.15] – but He lived a sinless life very humanly. Gregory Naziansus (d.390 AD) wrote, “that which is not assumed is not redeemed.” Gregory understood that Jesus has to become one of us in every practical way so that all of our humanity could be atoned for and redeemed. This means that Jesus’ work of salvation goes down to everything we are, down to the last cells, neurons, thoughts and desires.
When the angels declare that Jesus is “born” they proclaim a savior who practically plants His righteousness into the dust of the earth one foot at a time in our place; redeeming humans in body and soul. This should move us to awe and wonder, because no other god does these things.
Reason 3: Jesus is a Penniless Savior
When the angels proclaim that Jesus is born in a manger, they point to the words of Isaiah 53.2-3:
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
The fact that Jesus was born to a poor family does not make all poor people godly. But, it does show us that God’s power and presence does not abide with wealth or privilege – which is very good news.
Obviously it is good news to people without wealth or privilege. Jesus shows us that being reconciled to God is a blessing beyond those things. The very fact that poor, night-shift shepherds are chosen to receive the declaration from the angel illustrates the point that this Savior is not concerned with how much we have been given, but how we use whatever is given to us.
But the angels declare good news to people with all of those things as well. The wealthy and privileged don’t have to abuse fellow humans to hold on to money or status. People with means can use those gifts (or burdens) to help others and grow in an understanding of benevolence and mercy.
Jesus’ birth announcement is both a declaration of freedom from wanting and from keeping. Both the rich and the poor can be forgiven for a disordered hope in material wealth.
Reasons 4: Jesus is a Political Savior
When the angels declare that Jesus is “Christ the Lord” they proclaim an unelected, reigning, political savior. “Jesus is Lord” was the confession of the first century Church because it was antithetical to the Roman cult of Caesar. And, “Jesus is Lord” is also the confession that the church desperately needs today to rescue us from the current culture war.
Christians and non-Christians alike are too easily caught up in a culture war of policies, when we should be waging a kingdom war of souls. The greatest battle is not between Progressive and Conservative candidates; it’s between Jesus and anyone who would carve out an inch of their heart away from His righteousness.
Jesus saves us from our sinful hope in politics and politicians. “Jesus is Lord” is freedom from political tribalism and the social gospel of the State. When Jesus is Lord, we are free from investing our identity in policies and candidates, so (and particularly from western democracy politics) our votes can’t be bought when a candidate gives lip service to our personal interests. We are free to be slaves to The Lord, and not a false savior or would-be dictator [James 1.1]. Imagine a church so awestruck by the birth of Christ the Lord that political arguments give way to sharing the gospel and selfless sacrifice for neighbors. This is what an awe-filled People of God acting in a world of desperate politics might look like.
Reason 5: Jesus is a Personal Savior
Good news and great joy “for all the people” – each and every person who has ever lived.
Surely God specifies judgment and mercy to nations and groups all throughout scripture [Jer. 9.26]. But Jesus is a personal savior because no one can believe in his life, death, and resurrection in your place. Each one of us must go and “see this thing that has happened” for ourselves and place our hearts on Him personally.
You see this clearly in Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus late at night [John 3]. Jesus does not allow Nicodemus to put his faith in his family heritage, his learning, or his group affiliation. The child in a manger grows up and tells Nicodemus [John 3.16-18]:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
You and I, and all people we know and love have always needed Jesus to be born so that He could die, and so He can live again. If you know Him, you will be led to awe-inspired, humble worship this Christmas.
Reason 6: Jesus is a Proclaimed Savior
Jesus does not come to earth quietly. His arrival and his Kingdom is shouted out loud by angels and prophets over the millennia. He is declared to have been born in the normal human way by thousands of glory-bearing, fear-inducing, gravity-defying servants of The Living God. What other person is divinely promised and proclaimed from Heaven? What other person could we possibly become more excited about? This alone is awe-inspiring! It’s even more joyful when we treasure this Jesus as the Son and Savior He truly is.
Long live Christmas!
Be in awe over the Son of God who humbled himself in ways that stagger our imagination. Be in awe over the Son of God who is lifted up for our salvation! Let saints in Christ show the world that Christmas lives on because the child who was born in a stable is alive and sits at the right hand of the throne of God. He was born to put our sins to death by dying. He is worthy to be Lord because of His awesome faithfulness in the place of unfaithful people. Let us each go again, “and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Long live Christmas!
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