Submitted By Gary Cox, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church
Not many years ago, I stood in Manger Square within the little town of Bethlehem. Two thousand years ago a child was born to peasant parents somewhere within that tiny tract of land. It may well have been underneath what is now the Church of the Nativity, but only God knows exactly where. The significance is not in locating the precise spot but in the fact that the King of Kings laid aside the glory of his deity and clothed himself with the flesh of mankind. Theologians call this sublime event the “incarnation.” I would also call it amazing.
During one of my trips to Israel I had Turkish coffee with a Palestinian Christian who placed in my palm the shrapnel and shell casings of spent bullets that tore through his home. Long ago it was a man named Herod who ordered the slaughter of the innocents in this same Bethlehem. Blood freely flowed during those days of antiquity and not much has changed over the course of two millennia. Yet it was here, in this obscure suburb of Jerusalem, that the Prince of Peace began his earthly sojourn. It was here in one of the many caves that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Twenty centuries ago the Apostle John wrote, “the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” One could modernize the sacred text with the word “ditto.”
On one occasion our Canadian neighbors held their elections. Stockwell Day, a conservative, Pentecostal pastor-turned-politician, was excoriated by another candidate who said that, “Mr. Day would make all Canadians believe…that this Jesus Christ is the God of the whole universe” as if that was the most outlandish, absurd, and downright devilish thing that a politician could espouse. Of course, no one stopped to ask how Mr. Day would MAKE anyone believe anything. Such a transformation of heart and mind is a work only God’s Spirit can accomplish.
So, where I am going with all of this? Well, it should be fairly obvious that much of our world has rejected God’s Messiah just as they rejected him in the first century. Thus, the “Christ” of “Christmas” is largely missing. The majority celebrates a “holiday” with only a relative few celebrating a “holy day”. As I glance at both ancient and recent history, I find that where Christ is rejected for who and what he claimed to be (Creator-Lord come in the flesh to pay the penalty that a just God demands of those who rebel against him) – there is disharmony, division, dissolution, destruction and eventual chaos. In our own nation that once promulgated the veracity of the Ten Commandments, we find a devastating moral implosion, the demise of the family (which is the fundamental building block of any civilization), rampant relativism, secularism and humanism, which makes man the measure of all things rather than the God of Scripture.
The youngest of Christ’s Apostles, John, had it quite right – “He (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” (John 1:11) By and large, it still doesn’t know Him, which is precisely why we have cultures (such as our own) in chaos, genocide and terrorism in the world, the slaughter of the innocent for the sake of human autonomy, and bullets continuing to fly in the Near East. It is a world gone mad and that’s one good reason why the Messiah came – to bring peace – from the inside out. He alone is the author of peace, but we keep missing Him and then wonder why we can’t seem to get it right in our own life or the world in which we live.
But it’s not all gloom and despair. There is hope indeed. The Bible tells us that, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” And then we discover the glory of Christmas in these wonderful words – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name…” (John 1) Therein lays the hope of the world. Politicians bring more politics, but only Jesus can bring the peace that humanity so desperately craves yet finds so elusive.
Truly, apart from Him, life is void of meaning and Christmas is just another day off from work. I pray that Dec. 25 will be full of His presence in your heart and home. A blessed Christmas to you and yours.