Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Gift?

Today, to an increasing degree the emphasis of Christmas is shifting away from ancient events in Bethlehem and many complain that Christmas is becoming more and more commercialised. And when the decorations come out in department stores at least three months before Christmas few could argue.

Some Christians proclaim we should "Put the Christ back into Christmas". Others point to the fact that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday appropriated by the church and never really had any connection to Jesus.

I have recently heard preachers talking about the valuable gift that God gave at Christmas in the form of His Son. They refer to a well-known verse in the gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.”

Who could deny the value of such a gift given by the Creator of everything, the gift of His Son, the giver of eternal life?
But is it right to associate that gift with Christmas? Is it right to make a comparison with that gift and the presents we exchange with friends and family?

Was God’s gift, written about by John, the baby in a manger with no crib for a bed? Was the gift the baby Jesus, meek and mild?

Or did God’s gift come much later? About 30 years later. When Jesus, a grown man died a cruel death on behalf of mankind?

Is there any irony in the acceptability of a helpless baby that allows even non-believers to sing about His birth for a few days each year? Have those non-believers bothered to think about the words they sing?*

Why is it that similar singing is absent from the other significant time on the religious calendar? Why aren’t the “Easter” hymns so well known?

Could it be that a beaten and bleeding man nailed to a cross isn’t as appealing as a cute baby surrounded by cuddly animals?

Jesus suffering and dying for our sins, the brutality of the crucifixion, the sheer ugliness of torn flesh and shed blood - well it's just not acceptable is it?
It's too confronting.
A baby receiving birthday presents from kings and visits from angels and shepherds - all of the peace and goodwill messages… THAT is much nicer and unchallenging.
But move that baby on to adulthood and look at the end purpose of His life and the world doesn't want to know. They'll celebrate His birth with songs of praise - but His death?

Don’t even think about it. Just pass the chocolate eggs.


*Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Illustrating photo from here:

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