This post was originally written for ‘extratime‘ part of the Evangelical Movement of Wales’ Aberystwyth Conference.
So says John Lewis / Tom Odell / John Lennon! I’m certain that this is the love we all want. The love that we all spend our lives, time and money trying to find. Love that will not let us go. And as so many of us sing carols up and down the country we remind each other of the Source of this love. The God who comes near. Emmanuel. God not in a grotto but in skin.
That’s crucial to remember at Christmas: God is not Santa. Perhaps our default view of God is that He bears more than a passing resemblance to the jolly fellow in red. White beard, lives in a far off place, only cares about us being good. When we die and face him in heaven he will ask Santa’s question – “have you been good?” But what does he mean by ‘good?’ Probably anything above horrendous – everyone gets a present right…?
Luke 2 gives us Christmas in one sentence: “To you is born a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.” Underneath the hay and linen strips, the cracker jokes and sprouts, is a Rescuer on a rescue mission. Why is that important? Two reasons: we are not good, and we’re not good because we’re slaves.
Christmastime is a generosity explosion! But, to be honest with you, it’s a blip in a year that’s all about me. I know Christmas is about peace and goodwill to all, but I much prefer peace and quiet, for me. I’m a slave to comfort – I’ll do all I can to get it! It’s worse though. Even being generous and giving presents is stressful. What if they don’t like what I got them? What if I get them socks and they get me an Xbox? What if it’s the other way round?? I’m a slave to other people – to their acceptance or respect. And that’s precisely our problem all year round. We’re slaves. However Christmas is a rescue mission – God in skin come to love and forgive. The gospel message is look and receive Him.
Krish Kandiah once said that you know how much trouble you’re in by who comes to rescue you. Imagine you’re on your gap year and there’s a crisis (you can picture whatever you like!) and you need to be rescued. The guy from the British government knocks on your door. You open it and… Mr Bean! It’s likely that in that situation either you’re not in as much danger as you thought, or the government isn’t bothered about you surviving! But say you open the door and Mr Bond is there. You’d know immediately that you’re in real trouble and that the government wants you safe.
“To you is born a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.” The baby in the manger is God in skin. God with us. The God who is pleased to well with humanity.
God is not like Santa. He knows we’re not good. He knows we’re slaves, powerless to change no matter how many New Year’s resolutions we make every January. But God doesn’t sit in a grotto waiting for us to find him. He doesn’t tell us to be good boys and girls. He comes for us. He runs to meet us where we are. Jesus is God in skin. He comes in love for us who are unlovely.
The baby in the manger is the man on the cross. Dying, with outstretched arms, saying “come – I’ve paid to rescue you.”
Have a brilliant Christmas! Remember that nothing matters more than Jesus. The Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
[If you need a late present, check out ‘Pleased to Dwell’ by Peter Mead. Excellent unpacking of the Christmas story, showing that it’s not just for December!]