God's Christmas Gift
As the parents of four teenagers (ages 19, 17, 15, and 13), my wife and I have had many years of joyous celebration at Christmastime. Interestingly, we've done this without ever "doing" Santa Claus. In other words, we have never pretended with our children that the gifts under the tree and the goodies in their stockings were the result of the magical efforts of a jolly fat man.
Don't get me wrong; we don't shun Santa. We embrace most of the traditions surrounding Christmas. We have a Christmas tree with presents underneath. We decorate the house inside and out with wreaths, bows, Nativity scenes, and the like. We have our "stockings hung by the chimney with care." We send and receive Christmas cards (one of our best efforts from a few years ago is below), and so on. We've taught our children that some families, even Christian families, use the Santa Claus myth as a means of enhancing the joy and fun of the Christmas season.
Have a Merry Christmas...or Else!
We work hard at keeping Christ the center of Christmas. We've cautioned our children that "traditions" often can distract us from the profound Truth that Christmas presents. In addition, those who hate the real meaning and message of Christmas will go to great lengths to keep us from this Truth.
Thus, as is almost always the case, at this time of year, we must endure again the "War on Christmas." Why wage a war on Christmas? Is the birth of Jesus really that scary? Yes, it is. In fact, whether we would admit it or not, each of us, whether privately or publicly, at one time or another, has waged a "war on Christmas."
Sometimes it's as subtle as Clark Griswold at the end of the film Christmas Vacation. While staring at what he thinks is the Christmas star, with the typical Hollywood drivel, Clark declares, "That's all that matters tonight. It's not bonuses or gifts or turkeys or trees. You see, kids, it means something different to everybody; now I know what it means to me." The moment is supposed to warm our hearts but, instead, it's just another lie about Christmas.
We lie about Christmas because the real meaning and message of Christmas make us confront a frightening truth. Christmas means one thing and one thing only. As C.S. Lewis put it, Christmas is the story of how the rightful king has landed.
When Jesus stood before Pilate, just prior to going to his execution, the Roman governor asked Him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" After some discussion, Pilate concluded to Jesus, "You are a king, then!" Jesus answered him: "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason, I was born and, for this, I came into the world."
He was not just any king. He was a king with a holy mission. He was a king who was born to die. "Amazing love, how can it be, that you, my King, would die for me?" Jesus was, and is, our Savior King.
The "frightening truth" is that we are all in desperate need of salvation. As author Charles Sell put it:
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.
In Christian circles, it is often told that, early in the twentieth century, The Times (U.K.) either invited essays on, or ran a piece entitled, "What's wrong with the world?" Noted theologian, author, and apologist G.K. Chesterton replied:
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.
As Chesterton implies, none of us is "innocent." We have all gone our own way and done our own thing with disastrous results. In spite of the foolish notion often portrayed by some, no nation, no culture, no individual is "basically good." This world is filled with evil, and at one time or another, we've all had a hand in it. As the prophet Isaiah puts it, "[w]e all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah wasn't merely painting a picture of sinful humanity. The above Scripture passage was a prophecy of the coming Messiah. Ultimately, the world doesn't have a poverty problem, or a crime problem, or a sexual problem, or a terrorism problem, or even (and of course) a climate problem. The world has a sin problem, and Jesus is the answer.
The most quoted portion of the Bible, John 3:16, declares, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (emphasis mine). Less well known is the verse immediately following. John 3:17 says, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Those wanting us to donate blood or organs do so by imploring us to "give the gift of life." With Christmas, God gave "the gift of life" as it has never before been given. How many dying individuals would say no to a life-saving medical procedure made possible through the efforts or generosity of another? Yet how many reject the amazing gift of everlasting life that God offers through Jesus?
There's no escaping this all-important eternal truth: we are all in dire need of a savior. Your life can be filled with treasures and pleasures, but if you ignore Jesus and His message, you will regret it for eternity. Your life can be riddled with poverty, sickness, and strife, yet if you repent and believe in Christ, the magnificent riches of eternal life await you. And whether rich or poor, sick or well, imprisoned or free, in good times or bad, we all need the gift that was given on that first Christmas. Merry Christmas!
Trevor Grant Thomas: At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of the brand-new book The Miracle and Magnificence of America.
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