It’s finally here! Christmas is upon us. If we ever needed a time of joy and merriment, it’s this year. That’s my favorite thing about Christmas, the energy and mood that it brings. Of course, none of that is to be felt if you go to a store the week leading up to the holiday, but that is another topic for another time. There seems to be different feeling in the air. People are nicer and smile much more. You can’t converse with anyone without ending the conversation with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Everyone is ready to celebrate, open presents, spend time with friends and family, drink eggnog, and eat way-too-many sweets. I’m not the originator of this statement, but “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
This was true on that first Christmas night, a little over two thousand years ago. Mary, having just given birth to her first son, the long-awaited Messiah. Sure, there had to be some fear and worry, but mostly Mary’s heart was full of joy. I can’t imagine that she knew how Jesus’ life would go. She could not have envisioned the anguish that she would feel when her son was nailed to the cross. It never crossed her mind, as she looked upon her first born, that every bit of joy that she had would be ripped from her heart when they placed the Savior in the tomb and rolled the stone in place. She knew whom she had given birth to, but she did not know the pain that would be afflicted upon both him and her.
That’s the truth of Christmas. Every magnificent manger scene, every carol sung, every candle lit during “Silent Night” is covered by the shadow of the cross. That beautiful baby boy wrapped in the swaddling clothes had a destiny to fulfill. He came to earth for one purpose, to love his people, even to the point of death. Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Those friends, well, that’s you and me. Jesus would go on to be beaten, mocked, spat upon, humiliated, and killed to prove his and God’s love for us. He was the baby that was born to die.
All of that may sound a little gruesome and morose this time of year. That’s a bunch of Good Friday talk, and this is Christmas. Not one second of Jesus’ life, including his birth, can separated from his death and resurrection. Immanuel was not only Jesus being God with us, He was bringing us to God. He took on our sin, shame, and guilt, and returned to us the ability to have an everlasting relationship with our heavenly Father. We really got an amazing deal in all of this.
So, as we prepare to open gifts and eat cookies, don’t lose focus on what this holiday is truly about. Please, enjoy your family and friends, eat more food than you should, spend the day reminiscing or watching sports. Somewhere along the way, take a moment and think about the Christ child. Think about the man that he would grow into and all the kindness that he spread. Think about his death and why it came to be. Then remember, that he rose three days later and eventually ascended into heaven. Most of all, think about how much he loves his friends, you and me.