Christmas has many traditions and one of them is the predictable lament of dreary clergymen like me wailing, ‘Christmas has become too commercialised’ and ‘People have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas’.
I find it hilarious that very many people in our modern society are genuinely surprised that Christmas is about Christ, even though the clue is in the name. Some people are even angry that Christ has the cheek to intrude himself into Christmas. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry, do you?
So what is Christmas all about? There is a not very well-known verse in the Bible which never features at Christmas time or appears on Christmas cards, even the ‘religious’ ones. The verse is from 2 Corinthians 8.9:
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.
In those few words St Paul got to the very heart of what Christmas is all about. He used the imagery of riches and poverty to describe how God came down to us in Jesus to take us up to him. Jesus who, as God, set aside the riches of his divinity, demoted himself to enter our human situation in the grotty shelter of Bethlehem’s stable, in order to raise us up to God. Jesus as God, was rich, yet became poor like us, to make us rich. It is a brilliant image.
God came to Bethlehem in Jesus to raise us up to be with him in heaven for eternity. Is that really our destiny? Is that the richness God has planned for us? If so, it is utterly amazing.
It is so different from our own expectations of ourselves and what others expect of us. We talk about poverty of aspirations and not aiming high enough, but God aims at the highest for each of us. In John 10.10 Jesus gave us the reason for his coming to earth. It was that we might be fully alive. That is so much more than just ‘getting by’ or surviving.
It is tragic to see so many people in the world and in our society living very impoverished lives. The God’s good news is that he wants us all to be fully alive, and that has nothing to do with winning the Lottery, being beautiful or clever or powerful. It is about knowing you are fully loved and have a purpose in life. It is living the life God intended for us. Instead we ruin our bodies through obesity, drugs and alcoholism. We fight and squabble. We burn ourselves out in order to buy yet more things. So many of us are defeated.
God has shewn us the way in Jesus. He was what a human being should be. The great 2nd century theologian, St Irenaeus, famously said, ‘The glory of God is man fully alive’. Jesus came at Christmas to make us fully alive.
May God fill you with life and joy this Christmas time and in the New Year.
Very sincerely Yours,