It’s Christmas. The weather outside is frightful in this winter wonderland time of year. We deck our halls with boughs of holly and we help others decorate theirs. We jingle bells and mommies everywhere get caught kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe.
It’s Christmas. It is a time of celebration and remembering. A time of family and friends. Food and drink. Tinsel and snow. Santa and gifts. Reindeer and noses. Snowmen and top hats. Grinches and Whoville. Red Ryder air rifles and leg lamps. And…Jesus.
It’s Christmas. It is a time for egg nog and fruit bread. Christmas trees and lights. Hot chocolate and marshmallows. Parties and ugly sweaters. Cooking and eating. Stockings and chimneys. Gingerbread houses and gum drops. Hustle and bustle. And…Jesus.
It’s Christmas. There’s cards and candy cane. Elves and evergreen. Icicles and iced cookies. Lights and music. Ribbons and bows. Wreaths and wishes. Buying and returning. And…Jesus.
It’s Christmas. There’s angels and messages. Mary and Joseph. Shepherds and sheep. Taxes and travel. Inns and mangers. Hay and animals. And…Jesus.
How easily, in the midst of all the fun and good things associated with Christmas, is he forgotten. And, if not forgotten, minimized.
For many, he is a present still unwrapped, a gift unrealized, an answer unknown.
This baby, the Christ-child born so long ago, was not only an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. He was the God of all the universe wrapped in our humanity. As Mary held him and the shepherds gazed on him, he must have seemed so…normal.
He was like us.
But were those gathered at his birth also wondering, “How did God get all His majesty wrapped in such a tiny, tender package?” I have wondered that, too. I can’t fathom it all.
What must the angels have thought? Did they see that little baby in Bethlehem raise his hand for the first time and wiggle his fingers in front of his earthly eyes. These were the fingers that spread out the heavens; his eyes were known to search the heart of man. Did the angels nudge each another in awe and wonder and say, “What is this all about? I don’t understand!”Unfortunately, like many of the gifts that will be under our trees this year, this gift will be opened with great anticipation and excitement only to be set aside; like a little child who sets the gift aside only to play with the box. This is what happens so many times with this amazing gift from God.
Instead of wholeheartedly entering into the gift of salvation, some are content to play with the trappings and the wrappings of a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. Many are drawn away and distracted by the other, more brightly decorated gifts of the world that are screaming, “Choose me! Play with me! Wear me! Look at the love I have for you!”
The truth is, this amazing gift from God must be experienced as so much more than a Christmas story placed alongside Santa Claus, reindeer, Scrooge, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Ultimately, the gift God gave on that first Christmas morning was not a baby…it was a Savior.
The place he was sent was not a manger.
It was to a lost, hurting, and dying world.
This baby’s destiny was not the little town of Bethlehem.
It was a cross 33 years later.
No doubt, the birth of the Christ-child is a marvelous, miraculous thing. It is proper for us to reflect upon the miracle of God that brought this amazing scene into the reality of our world and our minds.
But to look only at the manger and a child without ever taking full advantage of the cross is akin to walking by your Christmas tree year after year and looking at a wonderful present, still unwrapped, still not bringing the joy and fulfillment it was meant to bring into your life.
The perfect gift, the one that is so elusive that we spend many hours and much wealth trying to find it, is only perfect when the receiver knows what his need is and the giver presents the gift that thoroughly meets that need.
It is only when we understand the hopelessness, loneliness, and darkness that our sin-filled lives produce in us that we can truly see the most perfect gift that has ever been given.
Remember the angels, the shepherds, the star, Mary and Joseph, the manager and yes, the baby Jesus. But as you do, look through the lens of the cross.
“It’s not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It’s not all about the angels
Who sang for him that day
It’s not just about the shepherds
Or the bright and shining star
It’s not all about the wise men
Who traveled from afar
It’s not just about the presents
Underneath the tree
It’s not all about the feeling
That the season brings to me
It’s not just about coming home
To be with those you love
It’s not all about the beauty
In the snow I’m dreaming of
The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it’s the ending that can save you and that’s why we celebrate
It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again…”1
Pastor Walt Wilcoxson is the Discipleship Pastor for The Crossing Church and Campus Pastor in Lima, IL. Look for his next article in The Christian Standard Magazine this spring, 2018.
1Jamison J Statema lyrics to the song
“It’s About The Cross.”