Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season its sometimes hard to put your finger on what it’s all about. We all want to know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. We all wonder what we will receive, and just as importantly, what we will give to our loved ones. With every passing year the TV adverts start showing earlier, the pace of the build up gets more frantic, the wishes become more and more generic. Somewhere along the line the season has changed from Christmas to ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s greetings’. The day revolves around family, friends, food and gifts.
One of the things that I love about Christmas is singing the traditional hymns – they sound out of place any other time of the year (unless you’re my son, in which case Ding Dong Merrily on High is good all year round). The traditional hymns are jam packed full of good old fashioned truth. I think my favourite couple of lines come from O Little Town of Bethlehem:
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
Of course, Bethlehem was a ‘little’ town, it was insignificant apart from God’s choice. It was the place that God’s chosen Saviour would be born.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
The Bible from start to finish points us to a Creator God who comes into his own creation, God become flesh, incarnate, a miracle in itself. But, this God become flesh came for a purpose: to save us from our sins, redeem us from our self-sufficient pride and disobedience and grant us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ Jesus. This event came to fruition in that little town of Bethlehem.
Christmas time is called Advent, because as we approach it we should be considering the coming of Jesus, the God of eternity breaking into time and space for the love of mankind. This is how we should approach Christmas. But, there’s more! Jesus promised that after the resurrection he was going to prepare a place for those whom he had redeemed, and when he was finished preparing he would return for us. There’s another Advent! We are:
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ
For those who know Jesus Christ as Saviour this is a blessed hope! The knowledge that just as Jesus broke into time and space to save us, so too he will break into this world at the end of days to claim his own and fulfil all his promises is a hope that is truly blessed. We are told that when Mary, Jesus’ mother was told about the heavenly announcement to the shepherds she treasured these things, pondering them in her heart.
In the hubbub of the season, with the incessant TV adverts, with the noise and the pressure to purchase and receive, in the ‘Season’s Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ of the commercialisation of Christmas learn to treasure these things in your heart. For those who don’t know the true meaning of Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is a pale imitation of the greatest of all gifts: the love of Christ, but it is still an imitation of a real truth. Let’s hold on to that truth, what has become a secret Christmas within a holiday season, for those who understand.
So, take time tonight, tomorrow to read the Gospel accounts to yourself, with your family or friends and treasure the true hope of Christmas and beyond: our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.