Where did the belief that “Nothing bad is supposed to happen at Christmas” come from? The notion that Christmas is supposed to be some glamorous thing, like a Macy’s parade. It’s like there is this beautifully decorated Christmas store window that we are supposed to climb into…to escape reality.
That mindset was reiterated with a relevant question I received one cold, rainy December night. We had just spent over an hour listening to a Christmas choral production. We got back in the car all bundled up and started the drive home. On the way someone asked, “Why didn’t they just sing pretty Christmas songs about Jesus’ birth instead of also singing about His death and resurrection?” We want pretty. The package wrapped up with a pretty bow. No trials. No hardships. But God unwrapped and stripped Himself to come down here for us. From his book Philippians, Paul reminds us:
“Though He was God,
He did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, He gave up His divine privileges;
He took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When He appeared in human form,
He humbled Himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
(Philippians 2:6-8, NLT)
The real Christmas was raw. Philip Yancey writes, “Nine months of awkward explanations, the lingering scent of scandal–it seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance, as if to avoid any charge of favoritism. I am impressed that when the Son of God became a human being he played by the rules, harsh rules: small towns do not treat kindly young boys who grow up with questionable paternity.” (The Jesus I Never Knew)
A favorite Christmas memory of mine occurred the year my parents took our family to the “Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols” at the Duke University Chapel in Durham, N.C. The pastor read from a huge Bible spread open wide on his lecturn. Instead of just focusing on the babe in the manger, he read and preached from different key scriptures which highlighted the reason Jesus came. He preached the “whole” story, from the prophesied birth, to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What Jesus did for you and for me was not pretty. The late Billy Graham said the cross is offensive because it confronts people.
The rub occurs when we have to carry our own cross. Did I have to receive that call on December 14, 2018 less than two weeks before Christmas? The Nurse said I have Squamous Cell Skin Cancer, requiring more surgery on my shoulder. I prayed: “God isn’t my other diagnosis of Heart Disease enough?” He responded: God’s HIStory is still being told through you and through me if we are still alive.
Are you willing to give God the “present” of allowing Him to do whatever He wants to do through you this Christmas season and into 2019?
pictures courtesy of “Nelson & his Nikon”