It’s so easy to gloss over messages we’ve heard over and over again. The Christmas story is no different. Even those outside the Christian faith can probably quote at least some of it, if from nothing else their fond memories of the old Charlie Brown Christmas special. But have you ever thought beyond the pageantry we know and celebrate each December and really put yourself in the context of this overly-familiar story?
The second chapter of Luke is full of action: a road-trip to Bethlehem, virgins having babies, barns and farm animals, angels singing to shepherds (makes me want to pull out the porcelain nativity right now. They’re so life-like, aren’t they?). But in the midst of all the celebration and lyrics of well-known Christmas carols, we lose a very real fact: it was 30 plus years from His birth in Bethlehem until Jesus completed the purpose for which He came.
Can you imagine getting a gift for Christmas this year and then waiting three decades to open it? Somehow I think it would lose its luster, it’s excitement, the anticipation. But Jesus didn’t come to provide us a once-a-year emotional reaction. He came to change the face of humanity, to give life to that which was dead.
In our world of instant acquisition, where we buy things today with money we’ll earn in the future (sometimes years and years in the future), Jesus–the ultimate Christmas gift–was the also the ultimate in delayed gratification. When the angels ascended back to heaven and the shepherds returned to their sheep and their fields, life must have seemed to return to “normal,” even though life would never be the same again.
Jesus was unlike any other gift ever given. Not like the mountains of plastic toys and video games gobbled up on Black Friday. Exciting today, broken tomorrow, paid for at 21% interest over the next 6 years. Jesus was a gift that unfolded slowly, methodically, under the radar of mainstream society. And He’s still unfolding today if we’ll let Him. Not as one-day-once-a-year event, but as a lifetime pursuit.
Merry Christmas everybody.