Wow, it’s so hard to believe that Christmas is upon us. To many people, Christmas is about buying presents and crossing people off the list. It’s about the stress of long lines, shipping deadlines on websites, and overcrowded parking lots. It’s basically everything that Christmas is not supposed to be and absolutely none of what Christmas should be.
We complain about taking Christ out of Christmas and that commercialism obscures or obliterates the reason for the season. We as Christians can tell the Christmas story, many able to recite it word-for-word from the Bible. We have the ability to express what Christmas means to us and have the tendency to ask people what Christmas means to them. The better question may be what does Christmas mean to God?
Consider Jesus, the Son of God for a moment. He focused on details, but He devoted most of His attention to the big picture. Yes, He certainly taught the detailed things like faith, relational living and prayer, but He always encompassed those things in the big picture.
For instance, when He sent out His disciples, He didn’t tell them how to build the buildings they would eventually meet in one day. He didn’t make a big deal about one style of music. He didn’t say worship had to start at 11:00 a.m. and end at noon. No, instead of covering the ‘details’ that we can make church all about, He planted in their hearts the mission, the big picture – He wanted the world to find and follow Him. In making sure they understood that, He was making sure we understood that if we were going to make a mark on our world for His Kingdom, we must align ourselves with the same mission, the same big picture.
To me, this is the very heart of Christmas. We all know about the commercialization and monetization of Christmas and the fact those things garner a lot of attention this time of year. But even though we know much about the details, do we know what the big picture was in God’s mind? What does Christmas mean to God? We could use the normal answer and say that part of the answer is found in the words we read when angels appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2: 13-14: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
And we would all say, amen. But I suggest that the big picture of Christmas was also declared by the prophet Jeremiah 700 years before Jesus was born.
He said in Jeremiah 31:31-34: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
God promised that the day would come when all people will be able to relate to Him in a new and better way. God essentially says to (and through) Jeremiah, “One day I am going to do away with the covenant based on the Law and offer them a new covenant that isn’t based on human merit, it will be based on grace. It will be out with the old…in with the new.”
That day came when Jesus was born and completed when Jesus died and rose again. But for all intent and purposes, the new covenant was put into motion in a manger on the night Jesus Christ was born. A new covenant based not on the goodness of man, but on the goodness of a loving God.
For many, Christmas is the time to think of Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger. While the birth of Christ is a special and miraculous event, it isn’t the primary focus. The central truth of the Christmas story is this: the Child of Christmas is God who cares enough for us to step down into our space, and to provide the means to have a personal relationship with Him. And that is the big picture.