Because He was born, we can be born again. God became man; the only Christmas gift that matters. That’s the essential message of Christmas. It’s really that simple and really that profound.
Maybe every insight has been shared, every message has been heralded, every image has been exegeted, every carol has been sung, and every idea about Christmas has been thought. So much for the modern, rationalistic approach to the Incarnation-Christmas as usual-decreasingly enchanting as we get farther from the joys of unwrapping presents.
Now, let’s turn to the meaning of Christmas for you and me. It’s experiential! I’m moved by the Incarnation because God has invaded my loved ones and me. Bethlehem excites me, but His invasion eternalizes me. I’m the manger; you are the manger, if He’s been born in you. Previously grossed out by the creaturely filths of this stable called Earth, we are mysteriously made into temples-sanctuaries-of the God Man. We are cleansed by His presence. The angels who sang Peace on Earth at His birth renewed their carol at my rebirth-they rejoice, we are told, over one sinner who comes to repentance. Now that’s Christmas! Angels not just on the top of my tree but also at the top of their voices heralding my birth.
But why? What’s the big deal? It’s just me. God can raise up children from stones, and there are about six billion more like me in the stable. The big deal is all about incarnating God. Spirit becoming flesh to enable flesh to become spirit. It’s about family, God’s forever-family being brought to glory-many sons and daughters.
I’ve just returned from China and Hong Kong, still in awe of an amazing privilege I had of meeting with a dozen Chinese pastors and 11 young Chinese who have been trained and commissioned to be missionaries to other nations – Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Cambodia, as well as unreached parts of China. Stories of real conversions in spiritually dark places were amazing.
You ask, What in the world is God doing? That’s what He’s doing. He’s birthing sons and daughters this Christmas, moving into their mangers to bring sanctuary to troubled war-torn people whom he so loves. And He’s doing it in Newark and Paterson, USA. Pastors in these cities find themselves ministering to poor people to awaken faith and hope. Now that’s Christmas. I think I hear angels singing.
Question: would your church become excited if a lot more poor people started showing up? You know, homeless, jobless, penniless, dirty people. People in trouble, like with unexpected pregnancies, outsiders to your community, drifters who just need a little shelter in their distress. Or would you prefer well-educated, wealthy, gift-bearing visitors? Which will it be? The Christ, or gold, frankincense and myrrh? Or the Christ of the lowly, smelly shepherds? How is Christmas coming to you this year? More importantly, how is Christmas coming from you this year? The mission, should you choose to accept it, is incarnation. And you can do it in Asia or New Jersey; among the financially or spiritually poor, or wherever God wants to father sons and daughters. You see, incarnation can continue through each of us who have been born to the lively hope! (1 Peter 1:3).