“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)
The Christmas season is rich with color and memories. I love Christmas lights, the smell of pine, the intense reds and deep greens. I enjoy the tinkle of Christmas bells and the familiar carols. It is a joy to hear Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole sing “White Christmas,” “O Tannebaum,” and of course, “the Christmas Song” and “Silent Night.” In church we sing Christmas hymns. It all brings back memories of being a kid walking the sidewalks of Newark with my father, looking for the perfect Christmas tree, listening to the carols and hymns piped onto the streets.
Christmas is about so much more than our memories and the celebrations in our homes. The heart and soul of Christmas is the story of the incarnation. In a way that we will never comprehend, the eternal God who called the cosmos into being, came to be with us in the birth of Jesus Christ. God came among us not with demonstrations of overwhelming power, not with the blaring of trumpets, not even in the halls of the powerful. Rather, God came to us humbly, in the birth of a child whose first bed was a feeding trough for animals. Through this child, Jesus, God reconciles all things.
The early Christians understood, and Christians today affirm, that the birth of Jesus fulfills what was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. In Jesus Christ God has come among us, extending to all gifts of grace, forgiveness, healing, compassion, and peace. The very author of life has come to teach us what life is about, to give life that is life, full and eternal.
Christmas is a gift. The gift is Jesus Christ, and all that he offers to us. The gift is extended by grace, not to those who deserve it, for none of us do, but precisely to all who realize how much they need it, to all who are seeking after God in spirit and truth.
Christmas is also a challenge. The peace we sing about at Christmas comes alive to the degree that we embrace the way of Jesus Christ. It is good to sing the carols and hymns, to read the stories and set up the mangers, but they only have power for us if we follow the one whom they point. If we do not, nothing really changes. We may have had a nice holiday, but we have not celebrated the birth of Christ.
My hope and prayer is that this Christmas season is one of peace and joy for each of us. My hope and prayer is that once the carols are sung, the visitors have returned home, the decorations are put away and the lights and trees have come down, that the power of Christmas will still resonate in our hearts: that after we celebrate the birth of the child, we become disciples of the man who walked to the cross, whom God raised from the dead, through whom God reconciles all things to Himself.
Merry Christmas & all God’s Peace,