Every year I attempt to slow down Christmas. It's my unrealistic goal to fully enjoy every. single. moment. of. every. day. leading. up. to. Christmas. day. Putting periods after each of those does nothing to prevent you from reading it in a normal pace. And all my attempts at punctuating my life in December doesn't halt the hasty onrush of Christmas day.
As a kid, Christmas approached with such maddening slowness. As an adult, it enters my awareness through Christmas displays set out too soon in stores. I choose to ignore them, but then it screams past like a Ferrari. In all the shopping stress of finding the right gifts, attending parties, preaching and meeting, and also being aware of so many for whom the Christmas season evokes deep grief, I've found it's impossible to slow down Christmas.
Christmas comes inexorably.
Thank goodness. Thank goodness I can't slow down Christmas nor prevent its coming. The first Christmas came at a time that had been foretold and yet none of God's people were ready. They weren't attempting to slow it down. They simply weren't expecting it. The only people expecting it was the extended family of Mary and Joseph. Mary was really expecting.
And yet Christmas came. It came so quickly that there was no room for Jesus "inn" it. Christmas came so quickly that shepherds were given a heart attack at an angelic pronouncement that boomed from the skies. It came so quickly and abruptly that Herod wanted to extinguish it.
God intersected human history with redemption and forgiveness at Christmas. This was His plan from eternity past! Though foretold by prophets and promised by God since Adam, no one saw the intersection.
"..a plan for the right time – to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him." (Ephesians 1:10)
"..when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)
The coming of Christmas divided humanity. It divided us between the hungry and the rich. Young Mary proclaimed in her song in Luke 1, "He has satisfied the hungry with good thingsand sent the rich away empty." V53) Christmas was Immanuel - God with us - and His tender drawing near those who shy away from His holy perfections, feeling unworthy. He bids them come and assures them in mercy that all who are poor in heart will be blessed. It's a bisection because the rich and self-satisfied are repulsed by the humility of a Savior. They have no need of Him and rather like their own lives (Herod). Christmas comes and leaves them empty - not because the offer of salvation is not available, but because they refuse it.
Christmas is also God dissecting. The coming of the Messiah goes deeper than what we could be prepared for. Christ's coming cuts. The Advent pulls back and exposes our hearts - not to wound but to heal. Christmas is like heaven's biopsy. It is a gift to be told there is a cancer within when a cure is offered simultaneously. The Christmas cure is simple faith in Jesus.
Who could have never dreamed that God's path to conquering sin and death lay through such a vulnerable method as a baby born to an ordinary couple? And creation would wait for 30 years after His birth for the angelic pronouncement of peace on earth to be savagely fulfilled through a bloody cross.
Christmas has come and is coming
Christmas is both a past reality and a future hope. Jesus has come to save us. He will return to reward and make all things new. How we receive Jesus into the depths of our lives can impact not only us but those around us. He can transform your grief. He can refresh your heart. He can revive your strength. He can give hope in despair. These are all promises and responsibilities of the Messiah. Will you welcome Him?
This passage in Isaiah was selected and read by Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum. With it, He announced his ministry, confirmed His identity and inaugurated Christmas. Notice the audience: poor, brokenhearted, captives, prisoners, mourners. Notice the gifts: good news, healing, liberty/freedom, favor, vengeance (justice), comfort, provision, beauty, joy and celebration.
"The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair." (Isaiah 61:1-3)
May Jesus find you hungry for Him in all the intersections, bisections, and dissections of Christmas. And let's keep trying to slow down in order to notice, be fed and rejoice.