There are many joys to being in friendship with people from other countries. We talk about
customs, fashions, family routines and EVERY other subject. But one of my favorite times is when foreign visitors ask questions that are both completely simple and completely complex. These type questions absolutely stump me. Let me give a few examples:
•Ms. Kathy, why do people in the US put trees in their homes during the Christmas season? And what do those round objects on your front door symbolize?
•Ms. Kathy, I enjoyed your church environment but why is everyone so sad?
•Ms. Kathy, could you explain the Holy Spirit?
These questions are real examples. But today, I want to ponder this question: Why do you celebrate Christmas? What's all the fuss about? Why was/is there so much excitement about a baby being born?
Why indeed? Ellsworth Kallas, a favorite author of mine, calls our celebration of Christmas the Christmas scandal. He contends, and I agree, that our need for Christmas started in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and their desire to choose themselves over God. And ever since that one selfish act mankind has been trying to find his way back to the God of creation.
Trying to find our way back to God...what? What if you realize that all your candle lighting, all your church going, all your good deeds will never be enough? What if, on your journey to get back to God you realize the task is impossible. What about the emptiness inside each of us, an emptiness just waiting to be filled? And, what if we lived in the time before Jesus was born into the world? Can you imagine the forlornness they must have felt? Can you imagine the waiting for the gift that would reconcile people to God? People had waited for hundreds of years for the promised Messiah. And finally, on one lonely night... a baby was born. And suddenly real Light had appeared in our world. New hope, new life had come to earth. That is the scandal of Christmas. Our self-centered natures, or sin, caused the miracle of Christmas Day...He came to save us. No wonder the song, "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus," resonates in so many Advent church services. For many, many people He was the long awaited and expected Savior.
So how about us? Is the Christ Baby our long expected Savior? Or is He just a baby in a manger, is he just the 'old Christmas story?" I want my spirit to be stirred by the anticipation and excitement of finally receiving a precious gift. I want my spirit to rejoice that Light has come to my completely darkened, blind eyes. I want this Christmas to be scandalously glorious. For it is my sin that He came to save me from and to lead me back to my true place in God. Now THAT'S a Christmas gift!
I've often wondered why new Chinese Christians are SO dedicated to their faith. They take nothing for granted, they walk a faith walk that inspires me. Why? I wonder. And the answer I believe, is that before they learned of this Jesus they lived without any hope, without any spiritual awareness and found themselves surrounded by darkness. Perhaps they had rituals and had heard fairy tales of a god but these notions seemed senseless and incomplete. But once they met the Light of Christ they ran to greet Him. And now, their lives reflect that Light. And they now lived amazed at this Christmas gift. For when all you know is darkness, Light shines oh, so bright.
Advent is time for me to realize just what Christmas Day means. I mean, do we recognize why Jesus left heaven and came to this broken place we call Earth? I do not want to forget my role in this story, my selfishness and my self-centered choices that make Christmas needed. Without this Christmas birth, we would still be waiting to somehow get out of our hopeless lives.
Christmas happens for each of us! "Come, Thou long expected Jesus / Born to set Thy people free; / From our fears and sins release us, / Let us find our rest in Thee.… "
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:6-9