In the month of December, we celebrate Christmas, which seems to have become quite confusing within the world of evangelicalism/consumerism. I’m sure that to many, especially outsiders, it is unclear what exactly this celebration is about. We must admit, with all of the “stuff” and commercialization of this holiday, it has become somewhat difficult to focus on the object of celebration. Now, to be fair, there is a lot of truth to the historical claims that Christmas began with pagan celebrations, particularly the holiday called “Saturnalia.” I don’t intend to spend much time on that subject, just to say that when I speak of Christmas here, the true object of our celebration will be in view. What is that Object? It is none other than the birth of our Savior. I am unashamedly Christian. I do not intend to be obnoxious with it, nor do I intend to picket the courthouse steps holding up a sign that says, “Merry CHRISTmas!” If that’s God’s calling on your life, so be it. I feel as though those arguments are missing the broader point. They seem to be more about keeping a national tradition than they are about the real reason for the celebration…which in essence is a celebration of a New Beginning.
Like I stated, I am unashamedly Christian. I believe in the virgin birth, the sinless life of Jesus, His identity as God, His atoning sacrifice, His resurrection, His ascension, His Spirit, and His imminent return. I know that all of those are deep subjects, but I accept them and love them, and all of them begin their presence in reality with His incarnation. This refers to the fact that He became flesh…He was born into the human race, which was necessary in order for Him to die as One of us for All of us that would be called by His Name. The virgin birth/incarnation was prophesied in the book of Genesis (3:15), and is spoken of throughout the rest of the Old Testament until we find its fulfillment in the Gospels. During this time of year, I love to celebrate the fact that roughly 2000 years ago, the Creator of all existence became One of us…walked among us…fulfilling His promise…taking care of the debt…and more…
One of the things I love is that He didn’t just show up, fulfill the promise of His coming, and leave it at that. He promised more…He promised that eventually, He would restore all things. This had been promised before, but not understood in the timeline of the story. Most seemed to believe that when He arrived the first time, He would restore existence at that point. Since that didn’t happen in totality, He said, (paraphrase) “I’ll return…and in the meantime, you have work to do…you must tell people about Me…tell them about what I want to do in and for them…tell them things won’t always be the way they are right now…pain and suffering and all the garbage we deal with daily will end.”
I can trust in his promises because thus far, He has been true to His Word. But there’s another reason…a deeper one…embedded in the heart and soul of one that is His child…the reality of the hope of resurrection…which He placed in us.
I experienced this reality a few weeks ago. My daughters have hamsters, named Dash, and Mittens. However, the first one my youngest daughter bought was a bit of a problem…her name was Goldie. She was very pretty, but a bit crazy and would bite you every chance she got. We think that maybe she was old or maybe even sick when we got her. So my wife took over responsibility of Goldie, and we bought Mittens for our daughter. Not too long after this, Goldie’s health began to decline and she died. This hamster was one of the most unlovable of animals…kind of nasty in all ways…but my daughters cried…and so did my wife…not because of the attachment so much as the fact that this little creature was one of God’s creations…suffering from this fallen world…and the various effects of the curse of sin. So, we went out in the back yard, and I dug a hole…and we gently placed Goldie in her grave. As my little girl, who was bitten by this little booger more times than we can count, knelt down, she cried her eyes out, and found some flowers to put in with her. My oldest daughter did the same, and then they ran up to the house to grab some sunflower seeds to put in there with her…knowing she couldn’t eat them, but just, “because” (I’ve found this to be a sufficient reasoning with 8 year old girls). They helped cover her over and they said a prayer of thanks to God. They made a cross out of a stick. That hamster has a wonderful grave. They looked at us and said, “I hate it that things have to die.” My little one asked her mom, “Do you think Goldie is in Heaven?” My wife’s wonderful response: “I believe God has a plan for all of His creatures and that He loves them all. Some day, everything will be fixed, with no more dying.”
That moment made me proud. They get it. They get that God didn’t intend for us to die. They get it that death just stinks. I walked up the hill with my family after the funeral of a hamster, having experienced the reality of the power of the resurrection in the human heart…and I cried a few tears of mixed emotion…mixed with sadness over death, but also with joy because of the hatred we have for death…which He’s placed within our hearts…within the promise of resurrection.
I believe in that promise. I really do. I celebrate His advent this December. I celebrate His death daily, but I celebrate His resurrection with every breath I take. I long to celebrate His return…
I know He will come again…and I know that we will know true and lasting life…because He’s started the ball rolling in our hearts…and He wouldn’t have done that if He didn’t intend to keep His Word.
Christmas is about the beginning of a New Beginning…and because of that, I say to you, “Merry Christmas!”