Christmas seems to have rolled around faster this year. Perhaps because I am older…Yikes! Perhaps it is because the stores begin to put out Christmas items in July and August. And how many times can you hear “O Holy Night” on the grocery store Musak (Do they even use that anymore? – showing my age! )so you no longer hear the tune or the message? Christmas has lost its meaning as we run from store to store or click through hundreds of websites checking our lists so that no one is forgotten.
In the midst of all of that we have to do and be we have to make the time to reflect on Christmas – just exactly what it means to us today in our technological world? What meaning does it have in my world of schedules, demands? Is it about the decorations and gifts? Is it about parties and special food treats. Is it about holiday music – I have to admit I am tired of “Jingle Bell Rock”. Is it about family gathering whether or not you want to see them?
We have heard the Christmas story hundreds of times, what’s new to learn? How can such an old and familiar story move us in the 21st Century? The Christmas story begins back in Genesis. God set His plan in motion way back at the beginning of time.
God had created the earth and all that was in it – trees, birds, animals, oceans, mountains – everything. But still something was lacking. So He made a man, Adam. They enjoyed intimate relationship. He placed him in a beautiful garden. It was an ideal, perfect place. God had told them he could enjoy everything – it was all there for his pleasure. The only thing that was off limits was the tree of knowledge of god and evil. If he ate the fruit of it, he would die. God gave Adam choice. To obey or not. Choice. We still have choice.
God saw that Adam needed a helper so he made Eve. Adam liked that now he had a woman to enjoy the garden with him. They enjoyed one another without shame.
Satan was very crafty and showed up to tempt Eve and made her doubt God’s word to them. He made them think there was something more – that God was holding out on them. He is still doing that to us in very subtle, attractive ways. He encouraged them to choose to disobey. They did and that’s the day the world began to die. Nothing was the same. Adam and Eve were literally and figuratively banished from the garden to struggle.
But God didn’t let them go. In great love and mercy God continued to woo His people back – through covenants and promises, deliverance and prophets. They continued their sinful ways. Finally He left them to their own devices.
After years of silence (400 to be exact), God announces that He is coming to earth and his name will be Emmanuel, God with us. What a remarkable concept! This high and holy God; the one whose face could not be seen; the one who could not be approached – He’s coming to earth! Who would have thought!
By coming to earth God to be human, like us, was stooping to our level. He was going to learn what it was to be human. He was going to get his hands dirty and blistered from labor. He was going to get his heart broken by betrayal. He was going to have to face hostility. He would know the brutal murder of a family member, John. The shock of the news yet the demands that life has to go on. The need to get away. He was going to deal with difficult family issues – jealousy, unfair criticism, injustice. And a savage execution.
Why would Almighty God, secure on His throne, surrounded by adoring beings, leave the comfort and glory of heaven to be with us? He longed for relationship with the ones He created – you and me. He would do anything – even the unimaginable – to have a relationship with us. He was going to go toe to toe with Satan himself and win us back. He put death on notice. Once and for all, He would defeat Satan. That is what Christmas is about.