I blame Charles Dickens. Everywhere I look, in the TV adverts, the Christmas themed films, the secret Santas and the planned parties, there’s a huge determination along with Scrooge to ‘know how to keep Christmas well’. We’re convinced that if we can by sheer force of will enjoy the festive period, we will have captured that spirit of A Christmas Carol. Except, that’s not what Christmas is about. We can’t just whip up that feeling, and we can’t judge our Christmas success by how well we do it or feel it.
So what is it about? It’s about something that we can’t whip up, something that has nothing to do with how hard we wish for it or how much we give ourselves to the season; it’s about something that is solid, substantial, and beyond our capability to produce. It’s about such a costly, exorbitant gift that we could never gain it ourselves. It’s not a trinket: the bath bomb, or the after shave, or the swapped gift cards for shops we never shop in, it’s sublime, not ridiculous.
Travel back in time some 2000 years or so to a dark middle eastern night. The shepherds are dozing, as are the sheep. To these very ordinary men came a most extraordinary announcement.
Luke, the Gospel writer puts it like this:
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The announcement was so magnificent that the whole heavenly host burst into time and space before the befuddled shepherds. Now they were wide awake.
Those 2000 years ago God, the Creator of the universe announced that he was sending his Son into his own creation. This announcement wasn’t whipped up emotion; it was stunning in its scope, incredible in its daring, astounding in its portent – here was God reaching out to all people to offer a Saviour, the promised One who would be God with us.
I can think of no other announcement that even begins to come close to this one in terms of its import for humanity not just now but for eternity to come.
So, shake off the trinkets of Dickensian Christmas past. Read Luke’s story in Luke chapter 2, reverently, and seriously, and ask God to impress on you the joy that filled the angels all those years ago. Because that Saviour is Jesus Christ, and he did save us from our sins, and he does offer eternal and abundant life in him. Look big this Christmas and wonder together at the incarnation, God truly with us. Surely that will fill your Christmas with true wonder and joy, and lift your hearts to worship the lovely One, who has loved us, does love us and will love us: Immanuel, God with us.