A Prayer for Christmas: The Peace Of The Christ Child
Nobody loves Christmas more than I do.
However, I do feel constrained today to remind you that Christmas is not found in the Bible. The celebration of Christmas is nowhere encouraged, nor is the occasion even mentioned on the pages of Holy Scripture. Furthermore, we find not one shred of evidence in the Bible or anywhere else that the early Christians annually observed the birth of their Savior, nor did they seem to have any interest at all in the date of that birth. In fact, only two of the 27 New Testament books make any reference to the birth of Jesus at all. What the Bible does concentrate upon, however, is why the birth of Jesus occurred and what it meant for the world and for us.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it or not, but birth in and of itself is a mixed blessing. The way in which one is born may leave a bitter legacy. Some babies, for example, are born into vicious cycles of poverty from which there seems to be no escape. Some babies are born black in white societies and thus may be condemned to experience the sting of prejudice. Some babies are born into such affluence that they become hopelessly spoiled by the indolent rich before realizing the cost of such coddling. How strange it is that the same event of birth, which is so full of gift and promise, is also so full of threat and curse. Some never overcome the way they were born. Others spend a lifetime trying to overcome it. Does Christmas mean, then, that Jesus was the one ideal infant with a halo around His head while the rest of us are not so fortunate in the start in life which we got? Of course not. Incredible as it may seem, the birth of Jesus was nothing less than God becoming human. In that sense His birth was like all other births. His conception was different, yes, but His birth was the same. That is what John meant when he said, “The Word became flesh.”
But, notice, please, that John also says that we may experience a spiritual birth exactly like the physical birth of Jesus. He says that we can become those who “were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” In other words, the way God came to Mary in the virgin birth was a heavenly sign of the way He seeks to come into our hearts: by the power of the Holy Spirit, as a gift of sheer surprise in order to redeem us from the bitter, sinful heritage of our earthly birth.
We cannot promise, no matter how we might wish it, that every baby born in poverty will escape its destitution, but anyone may inherit the spiritual riches of being heirs of God with Christ. We cannot eradicate, try as we might, the racial prejudice of this planet, but, in Christ, we all may belong to a loving family where we are all one regardless of culture, or color, or country. We cannot remove, despite our noble efforts, the aberrations of life, which deform the body and the mind. But, in Christ, we have the hope of a “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” where those who dwell there will be, as the Bible tells us, safe, whole, happy and complete. Even for those of us favored by our first birth, the opportunity of a second birth means that jaded marriages may be renewed, that tedious jobs may be transformed, that sagging spirits may be rekindled, that gone-wrong lives may be re-directed into God’s will and God’s way. That’s the peace the Christ Child brings.
You see, the important issue of Christmas is not so much that Jesus came, but why he came. He came to die. I cannot help but remember now, the lovely legend that tells of Jesus cultivating a garden as a young boy in Nazareth. In that garden he grew roses and when they bloomed Jesus would plat them into garlands to adorn the hair. According to the legend, one day he asked some other children to come to the garden to play and to share the garlands. Instead, the other children tore the flowers from the stems and left the garden stripped and bare. Mockingly they cried, “How will you make your garlands now?” Jesus answered, “You left the thorns.” He came to die for you and for me. He came to pay a debt He didn’t owe, because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. He bore our sin. He purchased our salvation. He destroyed the power of death and evil. He secured for us the gift of eternal life. He came to give His all, even His own life, for us all. How else can we respond but by giving ourselves completely to Him in return?
That is really why we have Christmas. That is the real reason for the season: to celebrate God’s coming into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ, yes; but also, to celebrate our coming to God through our own rebirth by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is a lovely old hymn that says it best:
I know not how that Bethlehem’s Babe
Could in the Godhead be.
I only know the manger Child
Has brought God’s love to me.
I know not how that Calvary’s cross
A world from sin could free.
I only know its matchless love
Has brought God’s love to me.
My beloved people, I plead with you to take the Christmas Christ child into your heart and into your life right now. If you do, then this Christmas we shall celebrate not only the birth of Jesus Christ into the world, but our rebirth into the Kingdom of Heaven. And that would make this the best Christmas of all.
Soli Deo Gloria.
To God alone be the glory. Amen