News and Articles
15 December 2017
Preparing for Christmas can be pretty exhausting. There are presents to buy, cards to write, friends and relatives to see, food to prepare, a tree to decorate and lengthy newsletters from well-meaning people to read (after all it’s so awkward when you see them and can’t remember what they said because you didn’t read it!).
Have you ever got to Christmas Day and wondered if it was all really worth it?
There’s a lot in the news at the moment about financial scamming – and rightly so; it’s a heartless and devastating crime which we need to be very alert to. But I want to suggest there is an another serious scam that doesn’t get the attention it deserves and sometimes makes us feel that Christmas isn’t really ‘worth it’.
We’ve been sold the lie that the essentials of a great Christmas are rich food, expensive presents, perfect decorations and lots of parties – so that’s where we focus the effort. But while those things can be good in themselves, they are not things we can all enjoy, and if all our effort goes into them, we are missing the point of what a really great Christmas is about.
We can only have a truly great Christmas if we make space to enjoy the ultimate Christmas gift. That gift is not the latest ‘must have’ from John Lewis, but God’s gift to us of Jesus. The goal of what we’re doing in church this Christmas is to help us all make the time to explore that gift and see just how wonderful it is.
A few years ago the Director of the British Museum presented a widely-acclaimed series on the BBC called ‘A history of the world in 100 objects’. The best Christmas gift is not a ‘thing’ to own but a person to encounter – but we are focusing on three objects to tell his story and help us encounter him for ourselves.
The cradle – encountering Jesus as the ultimate human
The cradle was just an animal feeding trough, pressed into service as a rough cot for a new born baby. Nonetheless, the cradle speaks to us of a real child, born into real history as a real human being. Jesus is God in the manger; but he is also the ‘Son of Man’ (the way he loved to describe himself) who became fully human. To encounter Jesus in his humanity is to know he understands us perfectly: he has suffered, celebrated, sweated, learned, laughed and cried as we do. To encounter Jesus the ultimate human being is to find the most inspiring and challenging vision of what human life can really be.
The cross – encountering Jesus as the ultimate saviour
The baby who was lying in the cradle went on to become the man who died on the cross – a cruel instrument of torture and execution. Yet the Bible insists that his death – agonising though it was – was not an accident but was planned by God. Jesus died for us to pay the price for all that is wrong in our lives, so that we can be freely forgiven and brought back to God. To encounter Jesus on the cross is to face the painful reality of all that is wrong in our lives but to discover that God is ready to meet us with extraordinary kindness, unreserved forgiveness and unconditional love. To encounter Jesus as the ultimate saviour is to discover the amazing joy of the relationship with God, for which we were created, being restored!
The crown – encountering Jesus as the ultimate king
The crown is a symbol of royalty. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the royal city from which King David (Israel’s greatest king) had come. He was born to be the king, but not just any king! The prophet Isaiah tells us that the child born to reign would be the wonderful counsellor who rules with great wisdom, the mighty God who rules in God’s way, the everlasting father who rules with great care, and the prince of peace whose rule gives us everlasting security! We are all led and influenced by others; the only question is by whom? To encounter Jesus as the ultimate king is to have your life shaped by the best leader, the wisest counsellor, and the one who cares for you like no one else.
So as we prepare for Christmas, let’s not allow ourselves to get too distracted. What really matters is to make sure we’re making space to encounter the real Jesus!
Any vision of Christmas that doesn’t include him is, frankly, a scam!