Christmas is a wonderful time. A time of family, friends, giving, parties, eggnog and sugar cookies. I love it all. It never ceases to bring out the kid in me. The same feelings that I had as a child rise up again and make the whole season seem like the best movie or story ever told. Even the true meaning of Christmas brings joy and comfort. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” the angel said so long ago. Yet with this acclamation of joy, comes a sobering reality that all is not at all peaceful. War, famine, disease, anger, abuse, divorce, abortion and broken relationships are all very real parts of this world we live in. All one must do is open their eyes to the world around them and they will see very quickly that there is no peace on earth, and joy is scarce among men. Yet this is what the angel promised. They said peace would come. They proclaimed the joy that would reign in the hearts of men. They said it was here. The question is, how do we find it? How do we find peace and joy in a world that is eating itself like a rabid dog? How is peace possible with such evil in the world? Is it possible? The truth is that peace has already been won. Yet how that happened is a very dark truth indeed. One might say that Christmas was the beginning of something very terrible. Christmas, with all its lights, joy and goodwill, has a side to it that would make the bravest man whimper in fear and dread. There is great evil that looms over the story of Christmas like a foreboding shadow. The darkness of Christmas is what makes the angel’s proclamation ring true even today.
A Dark Purpose
Christmas has a dark side. What is this darkness you might ask. It is in the simple truth of why Christmas had to be. Why there had to be a babe in the manger. Why there needed so desperately to be peace on earth. The answer is profoundly simple. Sin. Sin was the reason. Sin is the reason Christmas had to occur. Sin was the reason God became a babe. Sin is the reason for the season.
Because of who we are, Jesus had to descend. He had to leave His glorious communion with His Father and take on the likeness of sinful flesh. For the first time in the history of eternity, Heaven was short a member of the Trinity. The relationship was broken. The communion distorted and the unity disrupted. Why? All for us. Because we couldn’t save ourselves. We did not possess the ability to resolve our conflict with the Almighty. It took Christ to do it for us. The baby in the manger had a mission. That baby came to die. He came to suffer. He came to live the perfect life that we could not. The little soft hands and feet of this baby would soon have nails staked through them. The wondering, searching eyes would soon have the look of ultimate betrayal. The soft head would soon be struck by the harsh blows of sinful men as they rained their fury upon the supreme Creator. The tiny shoulders, wrapped in cloth, would soon have the weight of hell itself placed squarely upon them. This baby had a mission. This baby came to die. This is the darkness of Christmas.
“Post Tenebras Lux” (After Darkness…Light)
This is truly dark indeed. Yet God has a purpose in all pain. This little child that was born to humble parents would grow to be their savior. He would take their place on that cross and save them from the judgment they so rightly deserved. He would deliver us from our enslavement to sin. Yet death would not conquer Him. Satan could not keep His prey. Christ rose. He won. He defeated all that would stand against His people. He stands at the right hand of God and claims us as His own. What seemed to be the darkest of dark would actually come to bring the brightest of all realities. This tiny baby’s mission was completed and Christ reigns supreme over all.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re probably thinking that this sounds more like a Good Friday or Easter message than anything to do with Christmas. I get that. I can remember giving a message like this at a Christmas Eve service once, and a man came up to me afterward and asked (quite annoyed I might add) “Why do we have to talk about sin at a Christmas Eve service?” I admit, I was taken aback by the question. I composed myself after a few seconds and answered him. I said “I don’t believe that we should ever separate the baby in the manger from the suffering Savior on the cross.” The manger and the cross are linked together in such a powerful way that if you were to remove one of them, the other would lose its meaning, importance and significance completely. If Christ had not become the babe in the manger, we would have no savior to take our place on the cross. If we had no savior on the cross, this little babe was just a very ordinary birth that holds no significance for us today. Either way, we are lost. We must have them together if the truths of the Gospel are going to be wonderful and meaningful in our lives. They must not be separated. The manger and the cross must go hand in hand. They are linked together in the story of eternity.
Enjoy This Christmas
Please know that I do not say these things to ruin your Christmas spirit or put a downer on the holiday season. By no means. I say we of all people have a reason to rejoice and be glad. Our Savior has triumphed. He loves us, and there is nothing that can take us out of His hand. So as we come together this season, enjoy time with friends and family, and hold them close. Give them gifts. Drink the eggnog. Sing the Christmas songs. Enjoy and take part in all the wonderful things the season brings. Yet, remember why we celebrate. Remember the babe in the manger. Remember the Savior on the cross. Give thanks for them both. With this in mind and Christ as our focus, we can celebrate Christmas the way it was meant to be celebrated. We can remember Christ and rejoice in the darkness of Christmas.
Merry Christmas my friends. Find joy in the Lord this season.
See you in the New Year!