Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

nativeSince this is the last post in this series, let me say frankly that I think most people don’t care about this series of thoughts on what Christmas is all about – because it’s a bit much. You know: theology shouldn’t screw up our fun. The church (or Church, for some people) says we should have a feast day on Dec 25th, we can go to the local branch for a fixer-upper around 10 AM since we were up with the kids at 6 AM to open presents, and then the rest of the day can be a mix of naps and fighting over Phillips-head screwdrivers and AA-batteries. It’s family time, and that’s good enough for us, Frank: would you please shut up about prostitutes and the wrath of God?

It’s funny because Linus makes the grave reading of Luke 2 for Charlie Brown and says, “That’s what it’s all about, Charlie Brown,” and we feel like something really important® has been said by Dollie Madison cakes and Coca-Cola. But Luke 2 isn’t in a vacuum. The matter of what happened on the night in question in the city of David when there was no room in the inn is not really about anything – unless there is something more to this child than a birth in poverty into an indifferent world.

I want you to think about something with me as we close this up. This matter of “God with us” is certainly a reason to rejoice – but in the same way that we have a different kind of party when someone retires than when someone has a birthday, the kind of rejoicing we ought to be doing is based on the kind of joy we are receiving or recognizing.

“The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”, the angels said. Savior, Messiah, Lord.

You know, my wife doesn’t really understand my passion for Christmas because she is convinced that I am crazy – too involved in the matter of God (who deserves to be worshipped as three-times-Holy by these guys who are made out of fire and sing with a voice that puts guys like Isaiah and Elijah into fits of fear) being born as a baby so that my sins can be forgiven rather than counted against me as the kind of disobedience that it is. But when I read this story, I see the matter as one of a love which makes even my love for my children or my wife look somewhat tawdry and cheap. The humility of Christ makes me look worse.

Now, I could say, “it makes you look worse,” but you know what? That’s up to you to figure out. What makes Christmas an overwhelming occasion of joy is the contrast between this God Messiah Lord who will be born in blood, and filth, and be laid in a feeding trough when He deserves to have the astounding glory of Heaven holding Him, and me – the stupid little punk with a blog who cannot even love his family as he ought to. It is not just the glory of Christ which brings joy on Christmas: it is the glory of Christ overcoming the stupid little punk with a blog who cannot even love his family as he ought.

This is why keeping the wrath of God clearly in our minds is necessary at Christmas, and it defines the kind of rejoicing we ought to be doing. The kind of joy we can receive and we ought to receive in this season is the joy of God being with us – not as a pal, not as a chummy and chubby baby, not as a confidante, not as someone who merely suffers with us, but as Incarnate God who deserves our worship and our obedience.

The Gospel that Christ died for our sins in accordance with Scripture is not different at Christmas: it is utterly the point at Christmas. It is the moment when all the details of the Gospel are so vivid and demanding that if we only glance at them and then clean up all the wrapping paper, we have done harm to our own faith and to our love of God. Christmas says that the world is different now – and we are supposed to be different people because of it.

That’s not a lump of coal: that’s a clear, white diamond. And it’s not what you asked for: it is far more than you deserve. As you have 7 more shopping days until Christmas, remember that, and do more than omplian or worse — be neutral. Do something worthy of this baby who allowed Himself to be born in a manger, but for whom the angels could not help but sing – because He is here with us to bring peace on Earth, and good will to those on whom His favor rests: we should treat Him as our beloved, because that is how He has treated us.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles