December 26, 2013Lights! Swags of garland! Music everywhere that speaks about Christmas! Gifts! Parties! All of this seems to be shouting that we all long for a lot of hope, peace, joy and a new start at life!
For many, however, after all the celebration of Christmas has settled down, you're left with a lot of emptiness. Maybe you're reminded of a loved one who was not here to celebrate with you. Or, maybe Christmas didn't match up to your expectations. Perhaps your life is filled with a big disappointment or shame that drained life and energy out of your soul and body.
The true meaning of Christmas is meant to take care of that and to fill us with hope! Think about that: hope. Joy! Joy that outlasts tinsel, piled high wrapping paper or the latest gadget. Peace! Oh, how we need peace. And yes, how wonderful to have a new start at life!
This good news of Christmas is revealed in the name that Jesus was to be called: Immanuel, which means, "God with us". That is, the Eternal Son of God does the un-thinkable, He adds humanity to His deity" (Philippians 2:6-7). What a mystery, but how amazing. And why does He do that? It's because the fallen, broken human race needs someone who lives a perfect life to represent us. Jesus makes an astounding statement in His famous sermon that is often called the Sermon on the Mount: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect". Now, who can do that? There is only one person who could do that for us, and that is Jesus the perfect God who became one of us by adding human DNA and chromosome and a human soul to Himself.
He did this because we need someone who could do 2 simple things for us: First, we need someone who could fulfill the law of God in our place. The author Elyse Fitzpatrick writes that: "everything you've left undone, he did for you. Every sin you've committed he joyfully shunned out of love for you. Day after day for 33 and a half years His one desire was to please the Father and live perfectly in your place so that he could bring you to glory."
Second, he became one of us because we needed someone to live perfectly so that He could pay for the penalty of our sins by His death. It wouldn't do us any good if He sinned like us. So, this Eternal Son of God takes on flesh and becomes one of us in order to keep the law perfectly as our substitute so that as the perfect human, He dies in my place by taking the penalty of my sin upon himself. That's why the Holy Scripture declares: "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15)!
Every time I begin to feel the shame of my own sin, I remember God's promise that all who entrust themselves to Jesus and what He did in His life and death receive forgiveness of sin. And not only that, He now transfers the righteousness of Jesus, to me. He now exclaims that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). That's the new start in life I need! Isn't that amazing?
But, that's not all! When my heart is crushed when I miss my deceased father or grandchild, I'm reminded that Jesus understands because by the time He went to the cross to die, His own earthly father Joseph had died. He knows my hurt and pain. When someone says things of me that hurt or are untrue, I am reminded how Jesus experienced that growing up as a boy and certainly he knew it in His ministry. And when I wonder how to make sense out of life's circumstances and disappointments, I recall that Jesus' life and death was validated by His resurrection, and that now in Heaven he is praying for me (Hebrews 7:25). That gives me hope and peace!
Yes, Christmas with all of its lights and festivity is to remind me that the true meaning of this season is about Immanuel: God becoming one of us! These words of the Bible then will encourage our trusting hearts:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).
John Sale is the lead pastor at Valley Center Community Church. Visit www.vccc.org for more information.