Monday, December 23, 2013

Reflections on Christmas

I see the country wind up every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas with the same sort of drivel. The stores all engage in selling the latest and greatest whatever, and the trouble is, I do find myself heartily going along with them. I make expenditures greater than what I can afford to supply stuff to my children and grandchildren that they don’t really need, and all the time, I find the country urging me on—it’s Christmas.
Why do we do these things? I look back over my life, and I find that I am doing the same sort of things that Mom and Dad did. My life is a reflection of my Americanism, and not for the first time, I want to reject that. “Enough!” I shout. This year is going to be different—I say to myself every year, as I fall into the same trap. Christmas is such an exciting time for the kids, and when we had the patter of little feet in our house, it was absolutely wonderful to be awakened by cries of delight from our surprised ones. All of that is wonderful in its own way.
My dad strung lights in my early years, and as a Dad, I felt it my duty to go and do likewise. I bought so many Christmas lights one year that my house was the brightest one on the block, and if not quite up to Christmas Vacation standards, it still won first prize for my neighborhood. This year? No lights. Inside? No tree. Wrapped presents lay all around the house waiting for delivery, but we will wait in vain for the sound of small feet pattering in our house this season. My wife and I agreed; there did not seem to be much reason for going through all the decoration.
When I attended Biola, eons ago, there was a wise professor who happened to teach about giving during my first Christmas there. He said that one ought to give until it begins to hurt, and then give a bit more. I thought it a lovely idea, and have adopted it as a lifelong pursuit. Christmas is about giving—about God giving himself that man might live. The angel tells us, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” What remains with me after all these Christmases is That Gift, staring me in the face, becoming ever more important to me.
How many more Christmases shall I have before he returns? I do not know the answer to that, but I know his presence in my life, in the lives of my wife and daughter, testifies that he is returning, and soon. My sister-in-law echoed my thoughts exactly when she said, “Oh I have expected to see it in my lifetime!” I was saved by Christian friends who directed me to The Revelation, the first book of the Bible I ever read. I have lived in Christ since 1972, watching and waiting for his return.
But his second coming, visible, and known to the whole world, will be unlike the first coming, as a babe in the manger. What a precious thought it is to me when I think of God coming into the world, “that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The angel was right—I did not expect anything less—good news of great joy for all the people. I hope to see many in this coming year hear the gospel—that God himself entered the human race, and find out what a difference that babe in the manger made so long ago.
I try to imagine what the world might be like without his coming the first time. The world little knows, neither wants to acknowledge the vast difference that babe’s coming made so long ago. It did change the world forever, and radically, as God reconciled man to himself, drawing all men to himself. When I reflect on that, I know that this Christmas, even without all the glitter and the lights, will be the best one so far. Do I not have much to be thankful for?

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