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~ The Christmas Calling
Indeed, “Unto us a Savior is born.” We celebrate
the “birth” of Jesus Christ. Those words, “born” and “birth” connote new
life. I think of the birth of baby animals, humans and even plants. In awe
we behold beings that are new to us and to the world. The Christ, however,
does not quite fit into this image or meaning.
Christ always existed. He is life itself, not new life or old life, but
timeless, eternal life. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven
and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or
authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all
things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17, NIV). Thus
it seems a bit strange to me to think of Christmas as the celebration of
Christ’s “birth.” (And I definitely don’t think it’s cute when some parents
teach their children to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, which is bad theology.)
“Incarnation” is a better term, I think. “I will walk among you and be
your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:11). “For we are the
temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk
among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (2 Corinthians
6:16b). “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice
and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me’” (Hebrews
10:5). Christ was “made flesh and lived among us.” What an exquisite and
mind boggling reality to contemplate!
The Creator of all things humbled Himself to live in the womb of a human
in the person of Christ. Such love is lost on most of us, or at least incomprehensible.
God became like us so we may become like Him.
Just before Christ’s crucifixion, He told His disciples He had to leave
His incarnate body so He could transcend space and time, living within us
in Spirit. Christ assured us, “I am always with you.”
So I’m compelled to compare Christ’s life on earth in the flesh with His
life on earth in the Spirit. The Virgin Mary said, “Yes, let it be done
as you say” to the angelic messenger who declared to her God’s incredible
intention. To be born of the Spirit requires that same “Yes” to Christ’s
knock at the doors of our hearts and souls. In that way, we participate
in the Christmas as Mary did. The privilege offered to Mary is extended
to us. Yet so many people do not say “Yes” to it.
During Christ’s time on earth in body, most people in the world did not
know of Him, did not know of this Christmas miracle. Those that did and wanted
to engage Jesus had to do it in time and space. They had to connect with
Sometimes I fantasize about being one of those shepherds who watched the
sky explode with a myriad of angels, ethereal colors and sounds. Then to
make my way to where the baby Jesus was and feel the rapture of gazing upon
the Incarnation of God! But those Bethlehem shepherds probably never
saw Him again. Those who wanted to needed to press their way through crowds,
climb trees and cut rooftops apart to get to Him.
My fantasy of living during Jesus’ days doesn’t stack up to the reality
of today. If I lived during His physical days on earth, and if I somehow could
get to meet with Him, I know I would be healed of my afflictions, that He
would bless me and my life would be transformed, and I could prostrate myself
before Him in worship.
Yet we have a great advantage over those who did live while Christ was
physically on earth: He is now accessible everywhere at every moment. What
He would have done for me in a physical meeting He can still do today. And
I don’t have to trek days through deserts and mountains and crowds to meet
with Him. Christ wishes to be intimately infused in our bodies, souls and
spirits in even a more magnificent way than when He grew within Mary’s womb
for nine months!
Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Immanuel, meaning “God with
us.” Celebrating Christmas as a historical event is a blessed, joyful experience
for most. Both those who say “Yes” to His call to “make my home within you”
and those who are still saying “No” or “I’m thinking about it” can celebrate
Christmas and have a great, meaningful time.
But when I celebrate a person’s birthday, I do not celebrate a historical
event in the past, but rather the blessing of his or her life in the present.
Christmas is about celebrating, honoring, embracing a present event, a transcendent
mystery, the incarnation of the Christ, not in a woman’s womb, but in me,
in my loved ones, in the world, making us brothers and sisters with Him
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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© December 24, 2004