I went to see this Christmas program with Jenny and her parents Sunday night at Shadow Mountain, and it was really quite an experience. The sanctuary is enormous, and quite beautiful. The music was perfect, and almost sounded as if it were playing on a CD–it was beautiful, and polished, and I heard no mistakes. Most of the old standards were evident, and a few were played more than once, with various arrangements.
The usual dramas were replaced by staged tableaus, which, while also beautiful, were for me sort of strange–a live, yet still Nativity. Without the animals.
I think about Nativities now, and I’m not really sure how I feel. I mean, of course we should observe and celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s not just the noteworthy birth of an amazing teacher–it’s what Pastor Mike referred to as an “invasion.” It’s light invading darkness.
It’s an act of war.
That said, it’s also one of the only times where you hear Jesus mentioned, or see any sort of representation of Him. You see the infant Jesus
lay down his sweet head
But you don’t hear much at all about why He’s here, why He was sent, what was the motive for the invasion. It’s like…you have the greatest event in the history of mankind, and it’s just hanging out there. Sure, people know the story of Jesus, or at least one would think so.
But to me, if you don’t hear about Calvary, then Bethlehem is just the noteworthy birth of a good, wise teacher. If you don’t hear about the crown of thorns, then the manger is just an inconvenience to a young couple that got to the inn a little bit too late.
This is the plain truth: Because of the Fall, we have to pay for our sins, and the payment is death. But God does not want us to die, and in point of fact, love us so much that He sent his Son to earth, to be born in a decidedly humble and inglorious fashion, and to die the horrible death of a common criminal so that we didn’t have to do it ourselves.
And after that death, when Jesus rose three days later, His birth became more than just an historical fact.
“light of the world, you stepped down into darkness…”
So I think that we should celebrate Christmas. We should observe the birth of Christ. But it is not simply about a collection of pretty songs, or a nice representation of Jesus’ birth. I think you also have to consider his death, and what it means in regard to your life.
I think that in addition to gifts, and Christmas trees, and bright, colorful lights, and time spent with family, you also have to consider nails, and a Roman cross.
And I’m as guilty of that as anyone.