Those of you who have seen me over successive Christmases know I can be a little testy this time of year. I always struggle to get in the mood for whatever reason. I think, “why do we celebrate this? Why don’t we make a bigger deal the rest of the year?” I look at all the consumerism and say, “what gives?” Well this year is different—this Christmas is different.
I’ve missed you! I’ve missed writing! I’m sure if I didn’t spend 2 hours on every post we would both be happier, but such is the case. I have so much to say—and I’m sure I won’t remember all of it. Today finds me with my love at work and my work on break, so I’ve decided to spend the day with you.
Let me start with the Christmas message. It’s funny; I know I’m not great with people, so I frequently doubt my future as anything like a pastor. But man can I get fired up to preach! And what better topic than Christmas?
One of the things I learned this past semester (which, by the way, is a tease for a future post) is the role of observation in gaining wisdom. In Proverbs 24:32, Solomon is in the middle of telling a story and reveals what I think must be a key tool in gaining wisdom, if not THE tool. He says, “When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked and received instruction.” In other words, I saw something and I didn’t just let it pass me by. I thought about it. My mind immediately goes to Weird Al in the movie UHF, where he’s gazing intently at a volcano of mashed potatoes on his plate and says, “This means something. This is important.” It’s kind of like that mindset.
So what have you observed this Christmas? Have you gained anything from another year of its passing, or has it merely been another day, celebrated or not?
One of the things that often bugs me about Hotmail is that when you sign out, it kicks you over to MSN. (Doesn’t that sound a little needy to you?) It combined news with tabloids to create some horrid mutant found all too frequently across the Internet. Anyway, sometimes I admit I find some interesting things, and today they had pictures of Christmas trees around the world. What struck me about them is that Christmas is celebrated all over the world, and people make a big deal out of it. They have some of their own traditions and ideas, but there is so much similarity. And I have to wonder: which Christmas are they celebrating?
Are they celebrating peace on the earth and goodwill toward men? Celebrating gift exchanges? Family? Are they celebrating a day off of work? Or are they celebrating God becoming man?
You know the next question: which are you celebrating?
I’m sitting in front of a computer (you are too, fancy that!) and we don’t have a Christmas tree. My family isn’t here, but I do have the day off of work—not that I had planned that. And I happen to know (thanks to Greek) that peace on earth and goodwill toward men is contingent upon God’s favor resting upon them. Kind of ruins the universal groove, huh?
But I am dwelling on the incarnation, just not in the usual ways. I’m reflecting on pain. You see, I haven’t lived a very painful life, and I’m grateful for that. But this past week I’ve had a lot of tooth and jaw pain; it turned out that I had to have a filling redone. Of course, at its worst I do what many of us do: I start bargaining with God. I become reflective and look for that key that will unlock God’s mercy and bring the healing a desire. (I also tell Him that’s not why I’m doing it—in reality, I’m not sure that I know.) And even though I’m getting better, I still hurt.
Why do I hurt? Well, it’s a signal that something’s wrong. It’s kind of my fault for ignoring the warning signs, but I didn’t consciously choose to be in pain. It’s just part of life, right? Well, what if it wasn’t. What if you could go your entire life without pain… and not just the feeling, but the causes, too. What if you never got hurt? (I hear Heroes fans across the net working a rebuttal. Fine.) Claire Bennet’s sentiments aside, what if that were NORMAL for you? What if pain was like the Andromeda Galaxy–people tell you it exists, and you believe them, but it’s not really part of your life?
Not being in pain was normal for Jesus for a very long time. Theologically, we call this eternity past; it doesn’t make much sense, but you get what they’re going for. I wonder if God even feels emotional pain. I’d have to do some research. Anyway, we celebrate today because God CHOSE pain. He chose to be weak, He chose to hurt, He chose to be incapable and lowly, and all for the first time in history. He chose to feel what you feel. Who is this person? Even more, He chose to feel what most of us have never and, Lord willing, will never feel: the torture of crucifixion. What could man mean to Him that He should do this?
I’ve heard that the holidays bring out desperation and depression more so than any time of the year, and I imagine it’s worse with the economy the way it is. Maybe you’re hurting, or maybe your neighbor is. What better time to recognize and tell of the time God left ultimate power to be with you, to feel and heal the pains in your life? I know God isn’t going to miraculously take away the pain in my jaw as I type, and that’s okay. But I know it won’t last. I know that in its depths I can call out to Him, and He hears me. I know that He has purchased my freedom from this and every other pain so that I can spend eternity in heaven with Him. What’s a little toothache when you have all this?
This gift is for you, too. It’s not mine to give, but it’s yours to have. That’s what we celebrate this Christmas: not the death of pain, but the pain of God. What a miracle! What a sacrifice! What a Savior.
If you know it, share it with joy. If you don’t, just do the Christmas thing and accept a gift.