Summary: Christmas shouldn't be the end of the season but just the beginning for us
Christ is Just the Beginning
When will you begin to take down your Christmas decorations? In our family, my wife begins no later than December 28th. The reality is that the decorations may come down but I’m responsible for dragging the tree upstairs to the attic and so it may stay up for another week or two until she threatens me. When we finally get everything put away, we think we’re done, Christmas is over and now we can go on with life. The reality is that even if we have put away our decorations, Christmas is not really done but is just beginning.
Dietriech Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian who spoke out against Hitler and the Nazis. As a result he was arrested, imprisoned and then executed just hours before the Allies liberated the concentration camp where he was held. While there, he wrote a series of meditations on Christmas. In one he wrote, “It is not a light thing to God that we celebrate Christmas and do not take it seriously.” The challenge after a season of shopping, decorating, wrapping presents and attending parties is to pause tonight and take Christmas seriously and consider what it really means that God came in human form as a helpless babe.
Let’s begins with the scandal of the Christmas faith and the almost absurd and unbelievable claim that the God who created the heavens and the earth actually visited our planet in human form. Christians call this the Doctrine of Incarnation that God came in human form and took up residence among us to say, “I do exist. I am with you and in case you had any doubts as to what I am, I have come to show you.” That’s the claim that God visited the planet in Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John put it this way, “God became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Gospel of Matthew says, “All of this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Look, the virgin shall conceive a son and they shall name Him “Emmanuel,” which means God is with us.”
That is difficult enough for us to believe but it gets even more difficult because most of us would expect that if God showed up, perhaps not like Morgan Freeman in the movie “Bruce Alimighty” or George Burns in the 1970’s film, “Oh God!” but that he might show up like Thor, the mighty warrior down from heaven to defeat the wicked and evil. But that’s not what the Christmas story says. It says he came into this world in an ordinary way, like you and me. And that God came to visit this planet as a helpless baby, completely dependent on others to feed him, change him, bathe him and clothe him. This baby would grow into a child and would throw temper tantrums. This child who would say yes to God and the cross would go through the terrible twos and say no to everything. He who would fearless take on the religious powers of his day and even go to the cropss would be scared of things that go bump in the night and have nightmares. This child who would be a great healer of people would get sick and have a runny nose. He would be teased by other children. He would fall and scrape his knees. He would grow up to be a teenager, rebel against his parents, yell “I hate you” at them, have his hormones range and be confused about the changes going on in his body. He would grow up to be a man who would be tempted by greed, lust, pride and all of the things we wrestle with. He would experience everything we do in life so he might know what it’s like to be us.
We would think that God would be born into riches and power and comfort. Instead, he was born into abject poverty. When his parents looked for a place for them to stay, there was not even a hotel room available so that they had to take shelter in a barn where animals, eat, sleep and relieve themselves. Instead of growing up in a world-class city, at the crossroads of trade, art and culture, he lived in Nazareth wracked by poverty and drought, a backwater town of less than 100 people which was so insignificant that it didn’t even appear on the maps of the day.
So the scriptures say that God came to us so that we might know that he knows what it means to be human. How powerful it is to know He understands. But he just doesn’t understand, before he left this earth, he said this: “I will never leave you and I will never forsake you. I will always be with you. And when you mess up, you can come to me because I’ve been there. I am with you.” That is the message of Christmas. How do you box that up and say, “I don’t really need that for the rest of the year.” Don’t you need that every day?