On my last birthday I turned 31. My mother didn’t whip out the old family photo album to show me photos of my infancy, or tell me stories about her decision to have me, or her pregnancy cravings. Instead, she (and others) celebrated who I am today: a 31 year old woman that is married and a mother to four. I’d expect this is the norm.
I know when my kid’s birthdays come and go, I reflect on the glorious moments of each of their births – amazed that time has passed so quickly, but also so excited about who they are today.
Why then do we not do this with Christmas?
Every year we are quick to recount the Christmas stories. Don’t get me wrong, this is lovely! How much does our faith grow when we consider the surrogate miracle of the virgin birth? What about when we think about the ways God interceded to keep Jesus safe – through dreams like that of Joseph, or the Sheppard’s who travelled to greet him, but didn’t reveal his location to the King of the land who wanted to kill Jesus.
When we consider that the Saviour of the world was born in a dirty and not typical environment instead of a palace we think about how God really can use anyone, no matter where they come from or where their story begins.
There are countless layers of the Christmas story that we can unpack and marvel in. But, we’re all too quick to leave it there.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus differently than we celebrate the birth of the people around us. There’s usually no party for Jesus, and instead people buy gifts for each other, materialism grows and not a love for Christ. People who don’t even go to church or have a relationship with Jesus are quick to defend the traditions of saying “Merry Christmas” but yet they do not spend time with Jesus on this day at all. The nativity scenes are everywhere, and people focus on that baby in the manger, even if they don’t understand anything about him or his life.
Jesus didn’t stop after the miracle birth. Instead he grew up, spent the first 30 years of his life on this earth learning and studying God’s word, and then he spent about 3 years in ministry, travelling and teaching, before he was killed on the cross like a criminal by the people he came to help, a sacrifice to atone for all sins. All of that happened in around A.D. 30 depending on when you believe Jesus birth to be. Almost 2000 years ago he grew up and died, and we still celebrate his infancy.
I find we’ve done a disservice leaving Jesus as the baby in the manger.
What would it look like if we celebrated Christmas by celebrating who Jesus is today?
It would me acknowledging that 1/3 of the entire globe identifies as Christian. Of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the largest and the most unique. It is the only religion in which the deity comes to earth to sacrifice himself for the people. Its is the only one where simply believing will warrant your salvation (and your salvation is not contingent upon your efforts).
It would mean we reflect on the early days of Christianity and realize that in all accounts, it should never have grown to be this big of a global movement considering how many times people tried to snuff it out. Persecutions began even before Jesus’ death with the angry mob wondering if Peter was associated with Jesus, and they aren’t anywhere near ending. In some parts of the world the possession of a Bible could still get you killed today.
It would mean thanking Jesus for the teachings we have recorded, for the reflections he gave us of God and the free gift we received of the Holy Spirit that lives within us as believers, guiding us and comforting us. Many secular scholars who don’t have a relationship with Jesus still credit him as the greatest leader and most influential teacher of all time. His messages are unlike anything we’ve ever heard, from his humility to his stance on forgiveness and love.
It would mean considering how grateful we should be that Jesus chose to come and hasn’t yet returned. We were born after his arrival which means we have the New Testament and the understandings of Jesus and the Christian faith that the Old Testament Israelites (Jewish) didn’t have. Christians joke often about how Jesus ought to return ASAP, but when he does, that’s it – so I think we need to celebrate that everyday he doesn’t return is an other day to show the world the truth about him.
It means the personal consideration and reflection of who the Messiah is to you. The gratitude for the ways you have changed and grown having learned who Jesus is and what he has accomplished in your own life. It means taking time to acknowledge and thank him for his sacrifice, and his continued efforts as your Saviour. It means thinking about how you can better replicate him to those around you, Christian or not.
This Christmas let’s celebrate the birth of the Messiah, but let’s not leave him there. Let’s celebrate who Jesus Christ is to us in 2018, and who he will be to us in 2019 and the rest of our lives too.
Who is Jesus to you today?