All the twinkling lights and glittering decorations….I love all that.
The excitement of the kids.
Christmas carols, the fun and the serious ones. Have you noticed, though that our Christmas hymns focus little on how we feel and much on who God is and what He has done? Some of our Christmas hymns are also some of our most deeply doctrinal songs, focusing our attention on the glory of God. That’s what makes good worship music….
Wassail, Christmas cookies that I only make at this time of year, egg nog, candy canes (especially melted in hot chocolate).
Finding just the right gift for someone you love.
Giving to others.
Christmas choir musicals.
But the absolutely best part of Christmas to me is the way we are so encouraged to reflect and ponder on the wonder of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, God With Us, our Emmanuel. The best thing about Christmas is that it gives us time and opportunity to really focus on the Gospel, not just the Baby in the manger, but the reason the Baby was born. I’ve started preparing for our Bible study which will start in January, in which we will be using Nancy Guthrie’s book Hoping for Something Better to take a 10 week look at the book of Hebrews. To say I am getting excited about this study is probably an understatement. I am so looking forward to the encouragement to see and savor and grow in love for Jesus, to grow in awe for who He is and what He has done. Because, as the author shared in the introduction to the book, the something better we long for is actually Someone better, none other than Jesus Himself.
If you’ve been reading here for a long time, you probably know how squeamish I feel about portrayals of Jesus through acting and portraits, and I’m not going into all that now. But this year during our Christmas musical, while the characters in the drama were discussing the meaning of Christmas using a little manger scene the Grandpa and Grandson were setting up, on center stage a live manger scene was slowly unfolded, and it was really effective. Mary, Joseph and the baby were played by a real husband and wife and their new little baby, and it was powerful because it really made me think about how very real these people were. On Saturday night, the baby started to fuss a little and the mom handed her (yes, we had a little girl playing the role of the Baby this year), to her husband and I couldn’t sing anymore for a minute because I just got so overwhelmed with thinking about what it must have been like for the real Joseph and the real Mary to hold the Baby Jesus, knowing that this was God’s promised Messiah, the One all the prophecies pointed toward, the Lamb who would take away not just the sin of the world, but their sin as well.
What must it have been like for the shepherds to have the stillness and darkness of that night (and yes, I am aware it was probably not a December night) by the light of the angel telling them the good news of a Savior born in Bethlehem. What wonder as they were able to be among the very first to see the One who is the Great Shepherd for all we who have gone astray.
I love the account of Simeon and Anna when Jesus was presented at the Temple and their joy at seeing the Consolation of Israel. Faithful people who had waited for God’s promised Messiah, His promised Salvation, and who knew the Scriptures well enough to know the time was right. God graciously allowed them to see Him and recognize Him and trust in what He came to do. If you’ve never read it, you can find it in Luke 2:22-38.
Christmas is a holiday of hope because it shows us God’s love and kindness and mercy and grace toward us. It doesn’t stop at the manger but goes all the way to the Cross and the empty tomb. May I never lose the wonder of the One we celebrate. May I seek to know Him more, and to continue to see Him as the something better that my heart yearns for. And as a Gentile, who is eternally grateful to have been grafted in to the faith, my heart sings with Simeon as he says this:
“For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”