I seriously am having difficulty believing that Christmas is this weekend. Wow. I was sitting on my sofa this morning, sipping my coffee, and looking at my illuminated tree thinking about what’s coming up this weekend.
I spent some time dwelling on that this week. I spoke about it Sunday night. But you know what? I haven’t read the Christmas story yet. Haven’t flipped through the pages of Luke or Matthew at all. Actually, it was another Gospel that caught my eye this week. Most of us, even those of us who really aren’t avid church-goers or perhaps weren’t raised in “Sunday School” or in church, can quote John 3:16. It’s arguably the most popular verse in the Bible.
Along with that, most people find some hint of familiarity within the words of the Christmas story: “And the birth of Jesus was on this wise…”
But my eyes wandered beyond these this past weekend, to two verses that the pastor at the church I attended read. They actually reached out and touched me, though. Because we spend so much time on John 3:16, we seldom ever notice John 3:17.
“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (HCSB).
I guess that stands out to me because it sums up the reason He came. The reason that the Prince of Heaven, God Himself, left a realm more incredible and beautiful than we can ever imagine, or that our mortal words could ever express. He left it to become the most helpless of creation, a small baby. A small baby that was born in a stable that was most likely a cave and that literally smelled like crap, laying in something that animals ate from and that was far from comfortable. He voluntarliy gave up so much, voluntarily limited His access to many of His divine attributes, and became “lower than the angels for a short time” (Hebrews 2:7, HCSB). He left His throne, and assumed the stature of a servant.
Think about it. That was suffering enough.
But the thing is that He knew what the plan was before He started. He knew He was going to die, slowly, painfully, horribly. He knew that He would taste death, punished as a criminal, humiliated as society’s worst, even though He had done no wrong. He did it for you and I, pathetic scumbags as we are, even though He knew the things we would do. Not just the swear word that you slipped and said last week, not just the beer you had as a teenager, or the crack you did for years, or the girls you slept with back in the day. But the things that are even more horrible than all of that. The things you do alone at night when no one is watching. He knew about all that, too. And He still did it. Because He cared.
And today as I was rushing through a department store for a last minute gift, I barely cared enough to stop and hold the door for someone.
Not only do we fall short, but we sell His birthday short. If there was ever a resaon to celebrate, it’s Christmas. Because His arrival was the event that changed the world, His life the life that changed history, His death the death that gave us hope. It’s not about the trees and lights and gifts. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. But we’re really good at partying without remembering why.
My prayer for myself and for everyone who might read this is that we are able to focus on what it’s about this Christmas. What it’s really about. Who it’s really about. Because if we do, it will change our life, in whatever state it may currently be in, good or bad. That concept, that truth, will shake up your world. I hope you’ll allow it to do so.