By Ben Swift
Christmas, it’s coming round again. Father Time’s ever-spinning carousel has almost completed another revolution and all the signs are here. People around the planet are gathering like minions around the latest eco-friendly Christmas light displays, awestruck by the decorations that glitter amongst the sounds of the latest pop carols and classic Bublé. The bank account is drying up under the financial strain of seemingly endless gift card purchases, last bastion gifts for those who already have everything. Too cynical? Perhaps, but something just doesn’t seem right. Christmas is almost here, and I’ve heard little to nothing about the coming of Christ outside of the local church.
If Christmas is going to be meaningful, it surely can’t be through what it’s become. Rather, the good news of Christmas and the joyful ‘gospel’ that it points to can only be found in the story of Immanuel – God come to us. Jesus may be the reason for the season, but why? What gift did he bring that outshines any human attempt to offer hope or simply to impress? A brief dig into the scriptures will reveal just how immense and immeasurable God’s gift was and is, a gift of love beyond the greatest gift card, a gift activated by the true spirit of Christmas: Jesus the Christ!
Jesus, born the son of Mary in that little town of Bethlehem was indeed the greatest gift of all. As it is written in John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ Perhaps that is why the lyrics to the beautiful song, ‘Mary did You Know’, are able to ask such profound questions that get to the heart of who Jesus is. Consider these words:
‘Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation…Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? That sleeping child you’re holding is the great, I AM!’
While it’s not unusual for these lyrics to hit the airwaves each Christmas, they are lyrics making enormous claims about this little baby boy, born in an animal stable on that first Christmas night, born into the muck of human existence and experience. Certainly, and most shockingly, to suggest this sleeping child as the great ‘I AM’ is to equate him to God, a claim that has continued to divide humanity throughout history. It not only cements the divinity of Jesus, but also clearly suggests the Father and the Son as one, ‘I AM’ being a reference to God from the mouth of God (Ex 3:14).
Jesus, as both God incarnate and the Lamb of God, is surely what lies at the heart of the Christmas message, an idea perfectly expressed in John’s Gospel as he highlights the divinity of Jesus and his eternal being with the Father, The Word became flesh. In words reminiscent of Genesis 1:1, John writes:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (Jn 1:1-5)
A little further on, John writes of John the Baptist’s declaration concerning Jesus:
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)
The gift of Christmas, the God given gift of the birth of his one and only Son, is a story inseparably wrapped with that of Easter, not two stories but one. For this same Jesus, born on that first Christmas was also the Christ, the chosen one of God who would take away the sins of the world so that we might become the children of God (1 Jn 3:1).
God’s gift to us this Christmas is actually no different to the gift he offers every Christmas, in fact every day in which the sun continues to rise and fall. It’s quite simple really, God has demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still his enemies (Rom 5:8), he reached down to us, revealing himself through the incarnation of his Son. This gift of grace is there for us all, a gift we would do well to focus on this Christmas, a gift beyond anything humanly possible, the gift of forgiveness and eternal life with Christ, God come to us.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 Jn 4:9-10)
May God’s grace be with you this Christmas.