Faith: The meaning of Christmas
I never get tired of the Christmas story. The idea that the almighty infinite God, the creator of the universe, became a baby - a crying, smelly, helpless baby - is so unlike anything we could have ever imagined on our own.
If you've ever read the Old Testament, you'll realize how truly remarkable this is. Prior to Jesus, whenever someone encountered God it was a terrifying experience! How did He appear to Moses? As a dove? No, as a smoldering bush of flame and smoke! He appeared to Israel as a pillar of fire, and to Job as a powerful and destructive tornado.
In Exodus 33, Moses asks to see God's face, and God tells him no because to see His glory would immediately kill him. The Old Testament is vividly clear: Because of our sin we cannot directly encounter God and live.
So, what does this have to do with Jesus? In John 1:14, John describes his experience with Jesus saying, "We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
This is remarkable, and anyone who understands the God of the Old Testament understands why. They looked upon the face of God, and it didn't kill them. In Christ, they saw what was before un-seeable.
This past August we had a solar eclipse, and if you wanted to look at the eclipse you needed special glasses that would restrict the sun's radiance and brightness from burning your eyes. In a similar way, God was made flesh in Christ Jesus so that we can look directly upon the wonderful glory of the almighty God.
In Christ, we can finally see God, know God and experience His love as we were originally created to. We can get close to the glory that would otherwise kill us. Through Christ we can come close to the living God, and Christmas is a reminder of this wonderful truth.
In the Old Testament, God sent prophets and angels, but in Christ He comes Himself to forever remove the barrier between His holiness and our sinfulness. He doesn't send us a messenger to tell us the way to get back to God. He comes Himself saying, "I AM the way back to God!"
The classic Bible verse John 3:16 distills for us the meaning of Christmas, saying, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."
The story of Christmas is truly wonderful; it is the greatest story ever told, and the Christmas holiday reminds us of this with its numerous metaphors. The lights remind us of the one true light of the world; the gifts remind us that God gave us His only begotten son whom He loved; while the tree reminds us that God's son was given that He might die upon a tree so that we might live.
So, I urge you this Christmas season to reflect upon what Christmas is all about and to ask yourself if you have accepted God's gift, if you have truly come to know the one and true Holy God through His Son.
If you haven't, the Bible is clear: You will face God's glory one way or the other - either the unfiltered terrifying glory that we read of in the Old Testament, or through the baby born in Bethlehem, who lovingly came into the darkness of our world to die so that we might live.