My wife calls me a Scrooge during the Christmas season. She can barely wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start decorating the house (and started listening to Christmas music the day they started playing it on the radio… way before Thanksgiving). I just can’t do it. I usually start getting into “the Christmas spirit” about a week before Christmas – until then, well, I just get weighed down by the stress and chaos of the season.
Honestly, I think today (yes, two days before Christmas day!) might be the first day this year that I’ve legitimately gotten excited about Christmas coming. Is that terrible of me?
I know it’s terribly cliche for a pastor to say (or write!) religious platitudes about the beauty, glory, miracle, and joy of Christmas. (But aren’t cliches often truths that have been heard so often they’re taken for granted? Maybe we should be nicer to cliches?) Christmas really is a wonderful time for Christians to reflect on their faith. Give presents, have fun, drink eggnog, but please take time here and there to reflect on the reality that God became a man. If you think about it, that’s really quite the ridiculous claim (unless it’s true).
O Come, O Come Emmanuel has always been my favorite Christmas hymn. I came across the version below on YouTube a few years ago and I really like it. There’s just something about it that conveys the longing and the desire for Christ that I should have all year round. Even as I write, I’m reminded of what the very name Jesus means, “God saves” or “God is salvation.” We all long for salvation, even if we don’t realize it. I think that’s why buying something new (or receiving a new gift) makes us feel so good, because it’s like a clean slate, a new start. But salvation is in God, through Jesus Christ, and can’t be bought.
The gift of Christmas is Jesus. Not the cute baby Jesus, but the lived and suffered and died and rose from the grave and ascended into heaven for you Jesus. Yes, the baby Jesus and the “God-Man Jesus” are the same person, but when we focus only on Jesus as a cute baby at Christmas and forget the rest of his life then we’re missing the point. Heaven was breaking through in order to rescue and redeem God’s humanity and all creation!
Emmanuel (“God With Us”) has come… and he’s coming again to finish the job!