December 24, 2015

What is Christmas for?

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Merry Christmas! This year I have been pondering a question while I seek some intimacy with Jesus beyond the tinsel and packaging of this annual Holiday. How about you?

Yep, “what is Christmas for?” is my primary question this year. Yea, I know I am weird but I can’t help it. As I’ve been watching my fellow Americans and reading the account of The Christmas story in scripture, I see a major disconnect. So I find myself asking, “how did Christmas become the major event it’s become in America?”

In my search for an answer, I ran across an interesting article, written by a relatively new believer, Kirsten Powers, a Journalist and TV news commentator.

She writes that after she became a Christian, she began to wonder how her Christmas traditions lined up with what she read in the Gospels. She notes that during her growing up years, she loved the American version of a Christmas celebration and all its attendant traditions; Santa Claus, presents, Christmas trees, presents, family visits to get more presents, etc. In her recent Christianity Today article, “Becoming a Christian ruined my love of Christmas”, she explains how her attitude changed…
Ironically, after all of this, (the party part of Christmas in America) Christmas lost its luster for me. The rank materialism became too much to bear, and the Christmas season morphed from being a time I savored into something I tried to survive each year. Santa Claus, Christmas trees, the holiday jingles—they all felt like pagan oppression. When people complained about a war on Christmas I often smirked and thought to myself, Where do I sign up? Honestly: When a sale at Crate & Barrel gets entangled with the birth of Jesus Christ, something has gone horribly wrong.
But then I realized that I had allowed the secular celebrations of Christmas to crowd out its transcendent meaning. As theologian N. T. Wright points out, it’s Christmas that is the moment when God launched a “divine rescue mission” of humankind.

So what is that transcendent meaning? Two admirable people from Jesus day, I believe, sum it up. They were, by the way, the only people besides family who are named in the Christmas story; Simeon and Anna (LK 2).

Simeon’s ‘bio” is as follows…“And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

His viewpoint on Messiah’s birth is as follows… “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation,31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples”.

Anna, the prophetess”, bio is odd… She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fasting’s and prayers.

Her viewpoint is similar to Simeon’s…  At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

There, I found it! Do you see it?

Christmas is for those who are looking for help, because they know they can’t find it alone. It’s for people looking for a Deliverer, (“Savior is what the angels called it), for a Leader beyond all others, (Christ is what the angels called Him) who will lead us to a better life.

That is why God underscored the names of Simeon and Anna, they had it right for they recognized, unashamedly, they had a need – one only God as Deliverer and Leader could solve.

So it with that sense of humility, and need, “consolation” as Simeon called it, that I come to the manger scene this year.

In a world that is divided and violent as well as a pop culture whose moral fabric is decided by political correctness and not by biblical viewpoint I feel oppressed and insecure. In an economy that won’t, ultimately, provide for my needs, and stuck with a government whose political machinations and leaders fail and frustrate me, I feel hopeless. And, if the world isn’t bad enough, then there is me! I live in a body worn with age that continues to crave what God forbids; I find myself a weak and imperfect human, a sinner in need of grace.

Therefore, like never before, I sense just how much I need God and yearn for his consolations, His deliverance; His salvation. So it was in the first century; in a Roman government, a pagan culture, an oppressed Jerusalem. And so it is here; now.

For all of you out there who similarly sense your need of grace, of a Savior, of a leader for a better life, I recommend Jesus.

You will not find him so much in the materialism as you will in the quiet place where your soul connects with the Almighty, by faith, in prayer, worship; in thanksgiving.

If you know Jesus as your savior, I recommend you draw near to him in humble quietness and serene surrender, this Christmas, in order to really sense His presence.

And if you do now know him but sense your need for a Savior, then I recommend you humbly whisper this prayer to him right now. “Lord Jesus Christ, I realize I need a savior for I am a sinner too. I know now that you came on Christmas, to bring salvation to lost souls like me, bringing heavens grace to earths needy, You, God, becoming man, to deliver us from our sins. I receive your grace, I receive your salvation, I want to know your consolations, your redemption. And I want to live fully in your new Christian life, so I can surmount the problems of my world, as you ready me for Heaven. In Jesus name, I pray, amen”.

God bless you and Merry Christmas.

Jim Cote