December 24, 2020
By Keith Boyette
The heart of Christmas is the message of a God – fully divine — who cares so much about His creation that He became fully human to deliver us from the prison we had constructed for ourselves. The inheritance we had earned was death and eternal separation from God – the ground of our being. But God could not bear the thought of that. So, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, God made Himself vulnerable and entered into the creation we had spoiled so that He might take our brokenness – our sin – upon Himself and heal us. Amazing! Incredible! Fantastic!
If you take a few minutes to pause and reflect amidst the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, the reality at the center of the Christian faith is quite audacious. Who among us would throw off the privileges of our existence to sacrifice it all for those who have demonstrated that they are our enemy! Yet that is exactly what God has done in Jesus Christ. It is hard to wrap our minds around what God has done for you and me.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul shares the words of an early Christian hymn:
Though He was God,
He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, He gave up his divine privileges;
He took the humble position of a slave
And was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
He humbled Himself in obedience to God
And died a criminal’s death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8, NLT).
Unthinkable! Dwell in that hymn for a few minutes and let the implications of its reality speak into the depths of your soul. Almighty God did that for you and me.
Is it any wonder that we are filled with awe, joy, and even fear at Christmas? Such an act is beyond our comprehension. It grabs our attention and not just for a passing moment. The act is contrary to the values of this world which has become our prison in its rebellion against God.
Such an event demands a response. And the response demanded is more than a seasonal exchange of cards, a festive decoration of our homes, and even the giving of gifts among loved ones. Divine privilege has been surrendered. The infinite has entered into the finite and even subordinated Himself so that He might love and serve. The magnificent love of God, through His selfless act, penetrates a world and individual lives seemingly hardened to such love. And as it graces our lives, we are transformed.
The concept of the divine is somewhat ethereal. But the incarnation is knowable, approachable, transformative. We are drawn to His light and life, and we emerge from our encounter forever changed.
In my childhood, I struggled to understand who God is. In my encounter with Jesus, God became concrete. Once again, the Apostle Paul verbalizes that which makes all the difference to me in this season:
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
For through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see –
Such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through Him and for Him.
He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body.
He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So He is first in everything.
For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
And through Him God reconciled everything to Himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
By means of Christ’s blood on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20, NLT)
Christmas is a celebration of the God who drew near, who revealed Himself in flesh and blood – in the person of Jesus the Son, the visible image of the invisible God. When you contemplate the babe lying in the manger this Christmas, realize that God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ. Bend your knee and praise Him. More significantly, bend your heart and will and affirm Him as Lord of your life. Allow His character to become your character. Receive the love communicated in such a wonderful gift. Receive fullness of life imparted to you by the author of life. May you be transformed by your encounter with Him in this strange Christmas 2020.
From all of us at the Wesleyan Covenant Association: Merry Christmas!
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.