Christmas is one of the most celebrated times of the year in the Christian world today. Church and world alike participate in its majestic celebration. Beginning a month before the date of celebration, the songs of Christmas begin to fill the air. The postman staggers under the ponderous burden of gift packages and greeting cards. Red and white bearded monstrosities are roaming the streets bellowing with inane laughter. Parties are held full of wine, food and song. As the day of celebration approaches, the crescendo of activity is incredible and one realizes that everyone is incomparably and indescribably happy about something.
Does one dare ask the questions, “What meaneth all this intense enthusiasm? Who or what can be responsible for this universal fervor?” The answer one would get is that “Jesus is born.” But you may ask, “Is all this fuss over the birth of Jesus?” “Why of course,” comes back the impassioned answer. Ah, yes, you see everybody is celebrating because Jesus is born. Yet, in the din of celebration, you will observe two diametrically opposed outlooks regarding this celebration. Jesus was born, but what a difference in outlook. The world which hates God will emphasize the humanity of the babe of Bethlehem. They see a Babe of beauty born in the romantic setting of a cattle stall. What a peaceful scene, what a lovely child, what a heavenly night! Did not the Babe grow to be the best man that ever lived? Certainly if we follow his example, we would be able to achieve the elusive peace on earth and good will towards men. What a terrible irony! They have the answer to the question. Yes, Jesus is born. They see many of the apparent features of Bethlehem. Many are the same things the child of God sees; yet the spectacles they have on are of this world. They see only what man in his sinful fallen state can see. They see what they want to see. Christ says of them in John 9:39, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.” How ironic that the world is jolly and merry in the season of their judgment. The reality of Christmas for the world is their condemnation. Jesus as the babe is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, because they are blinded to the reality of who he really is. They want a babe who will grow up to be the Prince of Peace in a better world that man has made.
The child of God sees the babe of Bethlehem through the spectacles of faith and, therefore, his celebration takes on a deeply spiritual meaning. Jesus is God in the flesh. As God, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He is the king of the church and not of the world. He is the Savior of his people and as such, he walked the way of the cross taking on himself the iniquity of his people. The joy of Christmas for the child of God must be the joy of Simeon when he beheld the Babe: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). The reality of Christmas for us is salvation. This provides the peace that passes all understanding.
When you and I are tempted to get caught up in the turmoil and confusion of the celebration of this world’s Christmas, remember that they have their reward. They will reap judgment on their heads because they despised the Son of God. It is a celebration born of a hatred of God, and it deliberately attempts to conceal the real meaning of Christmas. Celebrate we must and we will, but remember in all our celebration, never lose sight of God in the babe of Bethlehem. For only then is he the balm of Gilead to the battle scarred child of God. Above all, do not forget that beyond the manger looms the foreboding spectacle of the cross. A cross which the world hates because it implies humiliation and judgment. To you and me it is the answer of our anguished prayer of “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” The answer comes: “Thy sins are forgiven.” Thanks be to God. Let us celebrate Christmas with a joy unspeakable.