As we approach Christmas, it is the season that church has, historically, called Advent. I thought I would re-share some old thoughts about Christmas in this time. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal (which the Apostle Paul would not have used, since he didn’t speak English), but it was the hymnal I had when I wrote this. Apart from Scripture quotes, the copyright on this completely mine.
“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:4-5 (NLT)
The lead-in to Christmas, the time when we celebrate Advent, is many things in our culture. Not all of these things are positive. This time of year, the ‘holiday season’ seems to also be that time of year when the guilt-machine in society is turned up an extra notch or two in intensity. During Christmas, we gather with people that we avoid throughout the year, we sandwich in trips to distant relatives that in all honesty, we can barely afford.
We buy gifts for people we do not like, and sometimes for people we do not even know. Rather than say no or express our own needs, we do and give out of a guilty compulsion. It is just a part of the American Holiday Stress Syndrome. Now, sometimes we try to lay off as guilty compulsion someone urging us to do what is right in the first place. After all, Christian Believers, “Honor your father and mother” is still applicable in the 21st Century.
Still, whether guilt sends us to do what we should do or just something we do not want to do, we hardly do everything this time of year of our own free will. Even in the normal doings of life, free will is somewhat of a sideline. After all, it takes a decent amount of nutrition to exercise a free will and sometimes you do what you do not want to get that nutrition!
Christmas, though, starts with free will. Jesus did not come to this earth as a baby that night in Bethlehem because He had to. He chose to. It was of His own loving choice that He emptied Himself and dwelt among us. Really and truly, God could have simply ignored mankind or sent us packing on into eternity early. After all, He could have just made new people, right?
Instead, Jesus chooses to come to this world. He does this because He loves us. He does this because He wants to. He does this because we are trapped as the enemies of God and someone must show us the way to peace with God.
The way to peace with God, though, is through death. The universe has certain unbreakable laws. One is that sin cannot come into the presence of the Holy One. There is no loophole for this, no sneaking past the Alps to get there, no magnetic fields to shield the two opposing forces. It takes death, because death begins to remove the blemish. Death was and remains the wages of sin.
Therefore, when Jesus chose the manger, He also chose the Cross. He chose to pay for the peace between God and man, to suffer the wrath of God for the sins of men. His death on the Cross was the natural pairing of His trip into this world at Bethlehem. He came for one great purpose: to die for the sins of man. Much of the rest of His life was spent in accomplishing secondary goals and attesting His identity before the Cross.
Gloriously, the story of Jesus is not just the story of the Manger and the Cross. It is the story of the Manger, the Cross, and the Empty Tomb. For death cannot hold Him: in Him is life, not death. He is the fullness of God in the flesh. He is born to show the way, dies to atone for our sins, and rises to everlasting glory!
Consider this at Christmas this year: none of what He did was compelled. It was done for one reason and one reason only: the love of God for humanity. Take that for what you can, but for me it is the key to thankfulness and celebration at Christmas. The One who could choose to bring life did choose to bring it! With the choirs of history, I will sing and shout “Hallelujah! Praise the Lamb!”
Scripture passage for the day: John 10:18 (NASB95)
No one has taken it away from Me,
but I lay it down on My own initiative.
I have authority to lay it down,
and I have authority to take it up again.
This commandment I received from My Father.
Hymn for the day: Joy to the World! #181
Prayer: Lord Jesus, my will gets in the way. I see how much “want to” interferes with obedience. I thank You that You made the choice to come, to live, to die for sin, and to rise again. Thank you for being the mediator between God and humanity. In Your name I pray, Amen.
 Not a recognized disease. At least I don’t think so.