Christmas left much faster than it came. The gifts were quickly unwrapped, the feasts heartily consumed, and merry music died.
The week leading up to the new year had its own flurry of plans and activities, and the excitement for a New Year….much like the fireworks that accompanied it…came, showed up, and died.
For all the excitement we prep and hype ourselves for the climactic ends of a year, once they’re done, somehow, we’re “back to normal”…back to the way things were. The tree and decorations are put away. Leftovers aren’t consumed quickly enough. And we’re back to work. Sigh. Back to school. Sigh. Back to being busy, busy, busy…like we were before Christmas and New Year. And back to the gym: Let the un-binge-ing begin! Right?
Maybe that’s why Christmas is more than just presents and merry-making and the whole “magic of Christmas” thing….because eventually, the excitement of having new stuff dies as quickly as the presents are opened. “Let it Snow” becomes “let it stop”, “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree” goes when the tree goes, and “Jingle Bells” becomes too noisy.
Maybe that’s why Christmas is more than just the celebration of the birth of Christ. As peaceful and as silent we wish for this time of year, it ends just as quickly. And we can only think of the baby Jesus for so long…because we’re just celebrating a birth. That baby hasn’t done anything other than be born.
However, for me, Christmas and the New Year represent something else.
Jesus Christ’s being born was the beginning of something. His birth wasn’t the climax of His life….nor should it be the climax of our focus, especially during Christmastime. Many people were waiting for His coming…because of what He would eventually do later in His life. He would be a Deliverer, a Judge, a King, and a God…all at the same time. He would save his people from oppression and persecution. He would take upon himself the sins of the people, be punished in their behalf, and save his people. He would rise from the grave…as the very first to conquer Death on his own….something that no human has ever done. He would have great power to do miracles among people. It was all prophesied; his birth fulfilled the prophecies that said of his coming…and that more prophecies would be fulfilled. They finally had a concrete reason to have Hope…because He was finally there!
Thus, for me, Christmas is not about the birth of the Savior. It is more about His life…and His particular purpose for coming to this earth. The first few years, and the last 3 years of his life as recorded in the Scriptures represents that mission. And what is that mission? His job was…and still is…to help all of us come back home to the Father who sent all of us here.
His resurrection after dying on the cross was to enable our physical, mortal bodies to become immortal again. Without it, we’d never be able to actually get back to where we came from and literally stand before our Father again.
His being punished for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, where blood came out from every pore, for all the sins that humanity (you and I and everyone) has ever committed…and will ever commit from that time on…that was for all of us…to give us a chance to renew ourselves, to give us a chance to be forgiven. It is because of Him that we have Forgiveness and Repentance. Without Forgiveness and Repentance, we’d never be clean enough to stay with the Father.
The life He lived while on this earth set an example for all of us on how we should all live with each other, how we treat each other, how we see each other, how we lift each other. He showed us how to be…among friends, among family, among the rich, among the poor, among government officials, among the common people. He showed us how we should be…in the face of temptation, in the mist of misunderstanding, in the fires of persecution, in the sneers and jeers of mockery, and even in betrayal’s kiss. He showed us what and how it meant to love in all those scenarios. Those who claim to be followers of Christ…even Christians then, and now…must understand that the path of discipleship includes walking in similar scenarios of difficulty and trial.
We talk of New Year resolutions: of weight loss, of accomplishing our bucket lists of activities, of superficially doing better. New Year Resolutions can last a month, or maybe even a week, or maybe even just at a moment’s pause…and then we’re back to who we were.
Jesus Christ offers a newness of life…a changed life. It’s a life different from what the world offers. Just like old Ebenezer Scrooge, I can be a changed man. I can begin again! And that can happen every single day. With Christ, with all that He’s taught, with all that He has offered, and with His daily help, I can tackle daily issues…my daily struggles…the daily squabbles and misunderstandings as well as our more pressing, more desperate moments.
Christ didn’t just come, live, and do His thing in Gethsemane and Calvary, and now He’s done….and good luck to the rest of us. Nope. The great thing about Christ is that He still lives…and that He actually helps us NOW when we invite him to do so. He can be our partner if we want Him to. And that’s not just a one time deal. No way! It’s an everyday deal.
Better than Christmas gifts. Better than New Year’s Resolutions.
If there’s any gift I could offer anyone, it would be: Forgive.
If there’s any resolution I’d need, it would be: Repent.
If there’s anyone that I’d need to help me do them both, it would be: Christ.
Christ…with us…now…everyday…makes for a better “You”.