Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Time off from school or work. Time with family and friends. Inspiring music fills the air and soul with joy. Dramatic plays direct our minds to real meaning of this holiday.
The history of Christmas go back beyond the man named Saint Nicolas, who went around giving gifts to make people merry. He is as real today as in medieval times. A number of years ago he was seen driving a red and white Cadillac and visiting hospitals and orphanages throughout the United States. Yes, his white hair, beard and mustache are not fake, neither is his fat belly or name: Saint Nicholas. Santa Clause must be a modern make-over for commercial reasons. How St. Nick got the name Kris Kringle is anyone’s guess. What we do know is history leads us back to ancient times when Christmas actual began.
It was around 4 BC, when angels appeared to a group of shepherds, most likely on their way to the annual Jewish Festival of Booths, announcing the birth of the long awaited messiah. During this festival, people of Israel celebrated their freedom that began with the Exodus experienced by their ancestors. Around the same time, Parthia’s ambassadors, also called Magi, came to Jerusalem accompanied by a military escort, looking for the newly born Messiah-king of Israel. Along with indigenous Jews, they too came to celebrate the prospect of liberty from Rome’s imperial influence. The disturbing problem for King Herod and Caesar by the magi’s visit was the fact that Parthia was an independent kingdom with whom Rome has a military truce based on formal treaties. What could they do about representatives of a foreign power creating expectations of a new messianic era of independence?
The expectations and hope spread by the magi, shepherds, and even priests were not to be fulfilled. The boy conceived during the Festival of Lights–a celebration of freedom and salvation–and born during the festival of the an even more ancient experience of God’s salvation and independence from dehumanizing bondage—was destined to save the world from an even more ancient evil: bondage to sin. It is this power over human thought and behavior that Jesus was sent by God to destroy, and not the empire of Rome. This would come in God’s predetermined time.
The power of sin is the prevailing source of all the human atrocities, wars, moral crimes, envy, jealousy, pride and greed that motivate violence and murder, resulting in poverty, social disintegration, distrust, alienation, divorce, and the like. In infant innocence, Jesus came via the manager to deliver humanity from the power and consequences of sin.
The real difference between Exodus and “the Cross” is this: Exodus liberated socially, politically and economically; it changed social status, resulted in a new political amenability, created greater potential for economic independence, and was intended to produce a new social morality reflecting God’s nature. Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection accomplishes the same but by changing human nature, which is accomplished by the overmastering power of God’s spirit. This is the Spirit who created the first sinless human, and recreated a second sinless human to redeem the progeny of the first, which includes us. If this babe who came via Bethlehem’s manger is taken seriously as God’s light and covenant, then God is free to accomplish his redemptive goal in and through our lives, society and world. For the life of baby Jesus is a model of the God who delivers from every form of bondage and the power behind it. Amenable to his word and rule, liberty and prosperity of soul and society produce peace, joy and good will. As God leads the way through adversity and opposition, Christ empowers loyal believers to a good and eternal life in God’s kingdom.
Why not accept God’s Christmas gift.