A Christmas Reflection

I love Christmas. It can bring out the best in most people. Most people (notice the term “most”) are friendlier. More generous. Kinder. To me Christmas brings back incredible memories of growing up as a kid in NE Ohio. Snow on the ground. Fire in the fireplace. Mom cooking all kinds of stuff in the kitchen. The tree. And most importantly the gifts under the tree with my name. The suspense would almost be unbearable. When no one was looking I would find the gifts with my name. I would shake’em. Squeeze them. Try to figure out what was inside. It rarely worked.

Christmas also reminds me of the gift given to us in the person of Jesus Christ. The baby born in Bethlehem. I step back and note that it all began with Adam and Eve in the garden with freedom to eat from any tree except one – the one that they eventually choose to eat from. Genesis 3 explains the serious consequence of their misuse of choice. Paul in Romans 4 describes how their choice was in fact our choice as well because of our genetic connection to them. Genesis 3 notes how everything changed in that moment. But within that chapter – specifically Genesis 3:15 is a promise. You have to look closely but it is there. Listen carefully…

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Did you hear it? He will crush the head the deceiver. The question is who is the “he” in the narrative? Who is this promised one? The one who is coming. The one coming to crush the plans of the enemy and restore humanity back to what it once was. The promise hangs out there for thousands of years. Then in Galatians 4:4 the answer comes when we read of a plan beginning to unfold. Listen to the plan of God …

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

There it is – the answer to the question of Genesis 3:15. And notice in the text the promise is to redeem, to restore those under the law – so that they may be adopted into the family of God – that is us.

It is interesting to note another dimension to this story that I find very compelling. It is the dimension of the silence of God. Yes. The silence of God. The Hebrew scriptures conclude with the writings of the prophet Malachi. Malachi was written around 433 BC. The birth of Jesus would be over 400 years from the closing of the Old Testament. There was silence in terms of the revelation of God. There was no biblical record of a prophet crying out to repent. Change your ways. No prophet until John the Baptist steps on the scene in Matthew 3.

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

It seems theheavens were silent for 400 years. One author suggests that it was because God was preparing for the manger. It had to be just right. It had to have the right timing. The right people in place to pull it all off. 400 years of silence as God worked behind the scenes in and through people’s lives. Silence is tough. It can be so deafening. It is hard to listen to. Have you ever felt the silence of God? I have. It was tough. It was a struggle. It brought me to my knees. It brought me the Christ of Christmas.

Silence is tough because we think the silence fails to give us direction. And meaning. And purpose. We can’t hear the answers we want. We cry out against the silence, and we stand in a darkness. An oppression. A suffering. And yet in our crying out we miss it. We miss that in Christmas God enters into our suffering. Our pain. Our heartache in the birth of Jesus. The manger in the obscure town of Bethlehem is God’s answer to silence. It is God speaking to humanity loud and clear. With angels. With shepherds. With wise men. With signs in the heavens.

I love the way John in his gospel describes this moment.

The true light that gives light to everyone came into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

When the time was just right the light tore through the darkness of this desperate world with a word from God – Jesus. God’s word made flesh. As you listen to God’s word the first thing you hear is a cry. The cry of an infant in a lowly humble manger. The cry of the one who literally spoke the worlds, the cosmos, into existence is now a baby crying in Bethlehem.

I note the irony of Mary and Joseph on the night of the birth of Jesus. Joseph could not find suitable accommodations for his young very pregnant wife. There was no room in the Inn. They were told to use the stable, a barn, as the birthplace for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. God breaks the silence with the piercing cry of an infant shattering a silent night. A holy night. But the world doesn’t have room for the young mom and the crying baby. Marginalized to a stable out away from things so he wouldn’t disturb others asleep that night.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him neither did they make room for him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. They didn’t even recognize him. Yet to all who did recognize him and receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

I love Christmas. My daughter Kaitlyn challenged me with the idea that in the midst of the chaos and busyness of this time of year that maybe we can give each other a different kind of gift. The gift of Micah 6:8 – To act justly. Love mercy. To walk humbly with the Christ of Christmas in my soul.

Maybe together we can bring the gift of unity where there is conflict. Order where there is chaos. And quietness where there is strife. Maybe we can bring our weary souls to the Christ of Christmas and find relief as we journey this earth together and sing with the angels, “Peace on earth. Goodwill to men…”

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash