I am sitting here eating my favorite kind of Christmas cookie, an iced sugar cookie in the shape of a gingerbread man. I wonder what gingerbread men have to do with Christmas. There are many Christmas symbols like this– some having closer connections to Christmas than others. My sister recently posted a photo on Instagram of two Christmas blow up yard decorations down the street from her. In the photo is a penguin in camo and Santa in an outhouse with a lit up roll of tp. (Yes, you read that right!) Everyday she gets to drive by the “Christmas decor” and ask herself, “What does this have to do with Christmas?” Really, I doubt she asks herself that. She probably just wonders, “Why?”
This third week of advent, I reflected some on Joseph. He, of anyone, needed to know what this baby was all about; just as I need to remember what this holiday is all about. The gospels clearly identify the heart of Christmas– yet Christmas gets muddled and messed with, glossed over and squeezed in, watered down and over-done, rushed and booked, spent, wrapped and sent. And now penguins wear camo. Jesus did come as a baby. And Jesus suffered, died, rose and will reign. But why? The angels knew what Joseph needed to know and simply said it:
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 2:21
There are so many things the angel could have told Joseph. The angel could have spoke about Jesus coming to bring healing, justice, life, and peace between God and people, and between people on earth. The angel could have spoke about His love, the many miracles He would do or the Pharisees He would call out. All these things and many more would have been true, but just a few things are recorded in Matthew of what the angel told Joseph. This is what the angels knew about Christmas:
He will save His people from their sins.
The angels knew that Christmas is about our sins. Heaven came to Joseph to say we need deliverance. We need rescuing. The time came for the unbridgeable gap between God and people to be bridged. “This One” is to be announced. We desperately need Christmas, for we desperately need a Savior. Yet, it feels nicer to make Christmas about something, unrelated and “Merrier” — like snow and stockings, cookies and wrapping paper, peace and goodwill, vacation and family, shopping and cards, and Santa in an outhouse. These are cheerful things and yet our situation is dire. Reminders of our sin make us needy and desperate. It doesn’t sound “Merry.”
As I reflect though, I am grateful the angel pointed out to Joseph my great need, which I feel everyday. There IS much to be merry about! Like anyone who experiences “rescue,” I want to rejoice and share, offer thanks and give, remember and bless. God’s gracious and merciful rescue is worth celebrating. I recall and share “good-tidings” as one saved by “This One”– remembering with symbols like a tree and lights, candles and advent, good food and family, singing and gift giving. There is much to celebrate. The darkness has been broken. Light has come into a dark world, and into my dark heart. Jesus saves me from my sin.
I love the Christmas cookies, lights and decorations. But I really don’t have to have these things. I don’t need penguins in camo or Santa in an outhouse, but I do need Christmas. The angels knew I needed Christmas because I needed to be saved from my sins.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
This Christmas season I have thought about things to “take out” of the holidays, in order to make it a little more simple. Instead of an advent calendar we are lighting one candle each week and speaking about the angel’s Christmas. Maybe for you it is not baking for the neighbors or trying to have the trendiest most creative Christmas card ever. Possibly, instead of a big party, try having just a few friends over, your kid’s friends over with simple snacks, or just one “stranger” (without family or country) over for a meal…. something simple.
- What is one thing you could eliminate from the next week in which Christmas could do without?