|photo by Crispin Schroeder|
As a pastor who is now responsible for putting on Christmas Eve services every year I often finding myself wondering which aspects of the Christmas story to emphasize and which aspects of our culture's version of Christmas to incorporate. Let me say from the outset that I love the season of Christmas, the lights, the music, the parties with friends and presents on Christmas morning (which is a lot funner with kids of my own now). I realize that the above are all pretty much cultural aspects of the season which have little or no attachment to the actual story of the advent of Christ but they are fun anyway.
When it comes to the actual story of Christmas I am struck by several aspects:
1. God With Us - I love what Christmas says about God and how he loves us not from a distance but by entering the world we live in the humblest of ways- by being born to a teenage couple in a stable. Christmas is the very first act of God removing the distance that has separated us from Him and His purposes.
2. The Incarnation - I love that the Christmas story speaks of God being formed in Mary as well as pointing to a spiritual life in which Christ can be formed within us.
3. The Characters - I love that the cast of characters gathered around Jesus are not the powerful or rich or well to do but rather shepherds, and astrologers from the east. Not the type of folks that anyone would suspect getting in on the birth of Christ. I often wonder what this might look like today.
4. The Glory of God - In the Christmas story we get a glimpse of God's glory, which for the first time is not in a tabernacle or temple but rather in human flesh. Like the cross 30 years later the wisdom of this glory eludes many as God's glory isn't demonstrated in smoke and fire or even physical might rather in humility and love.
5. The Response of Faith - What's amazing about the humble cast of characters involved in the Christmas story is how they each responded with a "yes" to God's invitation. Nowhere is this more apparent than when a teenage Mary, after hearing the words of Gabriel telling her she would be pregnant with the savior replied, "may it be to me according to your word." The Christmas story is only compelling because the cast of characters said yes to what God was doing. God invited them into the story of setting the world right and of transforming them within and they responded in faith.
These are a few of the aspects of Christmas that really get me excited. What about you? What does Christmas mean to you?
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