Christmas has come and gone once again. It was originally celebrated as a day commemorating the incarnation of God in the birth of the God-man Jesus Christ. It was also joined to the concept of giving which was promoted by St. Nicholas who gave to those women and children who were less fortunate. Christmas, basically, is a day set aside to commemorate Jesus Christ being born and coming into the world to die on a cross for the sins of humanity, thence, justifying those who have been called out by God from before the dawn of creation to be called sons and daughters of God by his grace and blessing. It is also a day set aside originally to commemorate St. Nicholas’ caring for the widow, orphan, and those women who were mistreated by providing for various needs. Combined, Christmas is a day set aside to celebrate the justice and provision of God.
Though, the work of St. Nicholas and the work of God taking on flesh being made man, emptying himself in order to die on the cross for the sins of the world is often neglected during Christmas in the Western world. Christmas is not about the justice and provision of God as much as it is about a small, cute, infant baby Jesus (i.e. Talladega Nights) and a general concept of a season of giving. The ‘why’ to what we do around Christmas is often neglected or forgotten, and anxiety over the holidays and excess inevitably creep in for much of the holidays as celebrated in the Western world. I have already commented heavily on the ‘true reason for the season‘ in an earlier post, but I haven’t commented on how quick people are to losing their sense of responsibility for giving and seeking justice.
It should not be a surprise that as Christians, we are called to imitate our namesake, Jesus Christ, and thus live our lives providing for others and seeking to do justice. However, this is not for justice’ sake. Rather, it is because we are children of grace as Christians and are called to live a life of gratitude for the blessing and grace provided to us by God in the person of Jesus Christ, our beloved intercessor to the Father and only acceptable sacrifice for our sins. Likewise, we intercede for others through prayer as our Lord intercedes for us and as the Spirit intercedes in utterances which we cannot comprehend. I say this because as children of God who imitate God in his Son Jesus Christ, we are called to testify to the grace given us by providing for others and seeking justice as we have been provided for and justified as a result of the work of God in Christ our Lord.
Early Christians didn’t want to have a set day of the year to celebrate the incarnation of God and the birth of the Messiah. Rather, they were concerned that it would be treated more highly than the One the day is to commemorate and that the day would mark a special focus which ought to be directed toward God and others all the time. Early Christians were known for being stingy with their sexual lives while being promiscuous with their wealth and possessions. The world has been known for living quite the opposite: stingy with wealth and possessions while being promiscuous sexually.
Now, at the end of 2010, I do not desire to write a theological treatise of sorts for the sake of rectifying false doctrines or bore you with prolonged critiques of Western culture. I simply would like to plead for those who are reading to not settle for “the spirit of Christmas” which in our secular culture comes once a year and leaves, but to live a Spirit-filled life driven by the Gospel of Jesus Christ all year. Do not settle for a watering of the Gospel message nor an abbreviated focus on the justice that God has brought in Jesus Christ, but celebrate this all the time.
In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul says:
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight….” Romans 12:9-16
Granted, there is more here than I will be discussing or unpack, Paul stresses as you can see and read that we as Christians are to first love. We are not merely called to treat one another in a cordial manner, but we are to treat one another as brothers and sisters (though, perhaps that might not be the best example for some). Our love for one another is to go beyond a smile and a hand shake into a love that is comparable to an ideal family love which more often than not is absent this side of heaven at least in it’s perfect form. Paul moves outside of the New Covenant community here in speaking on those who persecute us. Paul is primarily speaking to New Covenant members and how they are to treat one another. However, he is not saying to simply leave our good Christian behavior in the church doors while we behave contradictory on the outside. Paul is telling Christians to live godly lives which are marked by a Spirit-filled, Gospel driven love for God and others.
As we seek to imitate our Lord and move beyond the holidays, may we not forget the sacrifice which our God provided for us, the justice which was accomplished on our behalf, the gift which was given, and eternal hope and promises of God resting in the return of Jesus Christ our Lord. May we live lives that aren’t marked by cordial kindness of good manner alone both in the church and in public places, but may we be empowered by the Spirit of God to love beyond whatever boundaries exist to loving and may it be a love which runs deeper than an ocean, stronger than any river or stream, bigger and bolder than any mountain on the face of the earth. Simply put, may it be a love which flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and may we direct people to our Lord in both word and deed by our genuine love for all.
As the year ends, it is my prayer that you choose to live a life of gratitude by not merely celebrating a season of giving which comes once a year, but by pouring your life out into others all the time while testifying to the saving grace which we have been given in Christ our Lord.
Be bold in the Spirit. Pray for those you would normally forget and then those who you easily remember and for those you might want to forget in prayer. Be unselfish in your giving of your time, money, possessions, conversation, and love all the time. As the early Christians, may we be promiscuous with our wealth and possessions.
As the new year begins and this year comes to a close, it is my prayer that all you who read this will think deeply about the things you can give to God and to others. It is not about a ‘season’ of acting a particular way, but about a Spirit-filled, God-glorifying life poured out for God. May our love be genuine and may we all care more deeply for the concerns of others.
Grace and peace to you all in Jesus Christ.
How is it that you can love God and others more than you do presently? What changes can you make to radically alter how you live your life to provide for others and seek to do justice in this world as God has done for our own lives?