Kevin Shrum, Pastor Inglewood Baptist Church Nashville, TN.
Christmas is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I can already hear your response to that declarative statement: “Don’t you have your holidays mixed up? Don’t you know that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and Easter is about his death and resurrection?” Maybe I’m not as wrong as you think I am.
I was asked the other day: ‘Pastor, do you think the true meaning of Christmas is being pushed out of our culture? Secularization and materialism are already eating away at Thanksgiving, so Christmas is next, right?’ Not so fast.
Yes, we are more secular as a culture. The rise of the ‘nones’ in recent surveys indicate an increasing number of people who profess no religious affiliation at all. Further, we know that the rise of material interests in contrast to spiritual concerns at the holidays is always a point of contention.
However, just when we think culture has buried Jesus beneath the rubble of rampant secularism and unbridled materialism, he rises from the dead and the improperly constructed death-chamber of our misguided and premature predictions of his demise, and that of his church. To paraphrase Mark Twain, ‘The reports of Jesus’ death have been greatly exaggerated.’ Jesus is alive and well. Hymns will be sung in praise of his birth and worshippers all over the world will gather to remember his ignoble beginnings.
Christmas reminds us that Jesus was born to no-name parents (Mary and Joseph) in a no-name place (Bethlehem) and raised in a no-name town (Nazareth), yet he was royalty from the beginning as both shepherds and wise men worshipped him.
Christmas reminds us that Jesus was born to a young, but chaste girl who willingly and humbly submitted to the mystery of a ‘virgin birth.’ Christmas reminds us that his earthly father, Joseph, was a man of discrete integrity, willing to go against his initial judgment about Mary’s pregnancy, following through on his commitment as a ‘betrothed man.’
Christmas reminds us that Jesus is simultaneously the most unifying and divisive person in human history. He disturbs the proud and haughty, yet embraces the humble and repentant. Jesus appeals to our better natures while redeeming our wrecked humanity. He truly is the Savior of the broken and the bound. His life was impeccable, his words are timeless, his ethic was sermonic, and his purposes were always redemptive.
The resurrection of Jesus from a premature cultural death happens every time we become consumed with consumerism and yet think, at the same time, ‘Isn’t this whole season supposed to be about something else besides buying and selling?’ Jesus is raised from the dead at Christmas when we sing carols lauding his attributes, consoling and warming our lonely, sin-sick souls. Jesus rises from the dead every time we gather with family and friends, imagining the travails of that ‘first, holy family’ who made room for this unusual, god-like extraterrestrial. The agony and ecstasy the night of his birth calls to us and makes us weep for more innocent times.
Maybe, just maybe, we are the dead ones, buried under the rubble of forgetfulness and spiritual wandering. Could it be that we are the ones in need of resurrection from the death, a death brought on by the diseases of materialism and shallow hedonism? Needless to say, Jesus has not died; in fact, he’s alive and well.
It is my Christmas prayer that we will rise from our own death as Jesus again rises from the premature predictions of his death; that we will become alive to spiritual and meaningful things which rescue the heart and remind us there is more than buying and selling; these are the twin gifts from God of his lavish grace and our humble reception of his mercy.
If you believe, rejoice in the resurrection of the Son of God at Christmas. And even if you do not believe, rejoice that there is something more than mad materialism. Yes, Christmas is about the resurrection of the Son of God, a rising that culminates in Jesus’ atoning death and birth in resurrection power on Easter.
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