12/12/2014 8:53:08 PM
An Unpleasant Christmas
Most of us are hoping to have a pleasant Christmas. There are many enjoyments associated with this season exclusively that we try to lap up while we can. Anticipation grows to an avalanche. Nostalgia cries from every corner. I plan to revive the Horton tradition of making caramel popcorn and I already bought the peanuts. It is good to enjoy the good gifts that our Heavenly Father gives to us (James 1:17) but that is not the only thing that Christmas is about.
I’ve been reading a collection of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas sermons and although I’ve only finished the second one, I have been challenged already. He has been helping me to see what a jarring reality Christmas is. It is a ‘nice’ time of year for us but the fact of God coming incarnate to the world is anything but ‘nice’. This particular sermon was preached in Cuba and he called them to “look around at the outside world for a while.”
“Before our eyes stand the crowds of the unemployed, the millions of children throughout the world in hunger and distress, the hungry in China, the oppressed in India, and those in our own unhappy land. All eyes tell us of the helplessness and despair. And despite it all, Christmas comes. Whether we wish it or not, whether we are sure or not, we must hear the words once again: Christ the Savior is here! The world that Christ comes to save is our fallen and lost world. None other.”
To hear the cry “the Savior is here” immediately sets our eyes looking for who it is that needs saving. Let us remember that it is us. One of the ways that Christmas unsettles us is that it reminds us of our desperate need. We were so lost that only the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us could save us (John 1:14). This staggering miracle, the virgin birth of Christ, is a response to the staggering depth of our fallen-ness and lost-ness. Christmas reminds us that we are hopeless without it. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up (James 4:10).
But remember that it is not only us. Our world is full of hunger, oppression, unhappiness, helplessness and despair. We must not let our enjoyment of the warmth dull our hearts to those still in the cold. This reminder may come as an unpleasant interruption to our festivities but the point of Christ’s coming was not to provide us with a pleasant festival day. Celebrating Christmas doesn’t mean ignoring sorrow, it means facing it head on with this assurance: Christ the Savior is here!
Almost assuredly for us in North America, part of this means giving money but it is all too easy to silence our conscience with a one off cash dump to a faceless and nameless ‘them’. Jesus did not flippantly toss wads of bills from the heavens, He came. He did not count off an affordable percentage, He gave Himself. He showed up. Who needs you to show up over the next few weeks?
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, ESV)