Well, Christmas is coming. The commentators at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade proclaimed that the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus on the last float of the parade officially began the holiday season. Christmas, by which I mean the present-day American holiday, carries many memories and different meanings from person to person. Families celebrate the holiday in a variety of ways. In your mind, what would be the picture perfect Christmas?
For me, it would include my wife and children. Now that Sue Ann and I are “empty nesters,” having the children at Christmas is not a given. I think back a number of years ago to when our children were younger and we would go celebrate Christmas with Sue Ann’s family. Everyone would convene at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s—Sue Ann’s siblings, their spouses and children … thirteen of us. On Christmas morning, we all gathered around the tree, read the Christmas story from the Bible, and opened gifts. We didn’t hurry the opening of presents, so it lasted for a pretty good while. We tried to pay attention to each gift opened and “ooh” and “ahh” accordingly.
After the last present was opened, we might play for a little while with one or other of the gifts, but pretty soon it was time for the Christmas meal. We had to join a couple of tables to get everyone together. Once everyone was settled, we prayed and enjoyed the feast Grandma, and others, had prepared. It was a traditional meal: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing (or, dressing, whichever is your term), sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce … and, of course, gravy. The more, the better. Those were good times!
Does your “picture perfect” Christmas look similar to that, or is it different?
And do you think your Christmas this year will be picture perfect? Possibly, for some, but not likely for others. Things change over time, loved ones pass away, and what may have been treasured in the past will never be recaptured exactly as it was. Perhaps for you, your picture-perfect Christmas is not something you have ever experienced, but is more of a dream, a wished-for special day … a longed-for reality.
A longed-for reality. Indeed, that is what Jesus came to bring about … life as God intended it, unmarred by sin and sin’s corrosive destruction … the kingdom of God. And this first coming of Jesus, His birth some 2000 years ago is, of course, the real “Christmas.”
If we had been in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born, watching as observers, I doubt we would have described the scenario as “picture perfect.” Mary and Joseph were not at home in their own town of Nazareth. No, they had been displaced by a decree of Caesar Augustus … for government red tape! After traveling to Bethlehem to register for taxes, Mary was in labor. There was not room for them in the inn. Can you imagine the situation? … traveling on foot or by donkey, being in labor, and finding no hotel room (of course, in our day, we would be looking for the emergency room!). Not ideal.
Add to that the fact that the One being born was the eternal God, now God in the flesh. He was the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords. You would think His birth should have been marked by splendor and beauty, certainly something along the line of picture perfect.
No, our Savior humbled Himself. He took on human flesh, and adopted the position of a servant. As the Servant, He lowered Himself to the point of death by crucifixion, death in our place to accomplish salvation, forgiveness, and restoration to God. In fact, the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus will eventuate in the complete overthrow of all sin and evil in the universe! The work of Christ will make possible the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.
That, friends, is the longed-for reality planted deep in each human heart. We long for the kingdom of God, that picture perfect world in which grief, pain, and sin have no part. Joy, love, and peace instead! And that is the future reality for each person who believes in the Lord Jesus!
Jesus’s less than picture perfect entry into the world will one day bring about the ultimate picture perfect reality. Merry Christmas!