Christmas in Black and White

santaSeveral years ago Phillip Bump wrote an article for The Atlantic that examined the Christmas Eve workload of the jolly old elf.  Using data from the CIA, Bump focused his article on Santa’s deliveries to the world’s 526,000,000 Christian kids 14 years of age and younger.

To get a present to all of these kids, Bump determined that Santa would need to deliver presents at a rate of 22 million kids an hour for the 24 hours of Christmas Eve. If you run the figures on your calculator, you’ll find that equates to 365,000 kids a minute or about 6,100 a second.  Not to worry though, we are talking about Santa.

Do you remember your perceptions of Christmas and Santa when you were a child?  Did your eager anticipation of Christmas consume you?

I remember how quickly I would hurry home after school, so I could watch Santa’s Workshop in black and white on an old TV.  The days from Thanksgiving to Christmas would pass by with the agonizing speed of a turtle.

As a child, I thought Christmas would never come; and, truthfully, I gave very little thought to its significance.  The desire that I had for the brightly wrapped gifts carefully placed beneath the bright lights and icicles hanging on the Christmas tree, had little to do with the Christ of Christmas.

So, what is Christmas?  It certainly isn’t big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, or the pushing, shoving, and elbowing of frenzied shopping.  Christmas is the birth of Hope.  It is a time to step away from the hustle and bustle of the mobs and the malls to find a moment of solitude to reflect on the miracle of the manger.

Christmas is that day long ago when Jesus stepped down from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger; to live a sinless life; to die the death of the cross; to rise again on the third day; and to return to heaven to intercede on our behalf.

The essence of that babe from Bethlehem is summarized by Paul in the colorful language of I Timothy 3:16:

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  Jesus appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

May you have a Merry Christmas is my wish for you.

Like A Satin White Snowflake

sad-snowmanWhen I walk down the street or press my way through a busy mall, it seems people are as adrift as a satin white snowflake that’s blown by a fierce wind.  They participate in a vigorous celebration of an annual winter holiday that is a time of jubilation, but they have never experienced that infusion of joy that Peter described as being “unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).”

Paul wanted the saints at Ephesus to embrace a joy-filled relationship with Christ, so he prayed for them to “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

The joy and fullness of Christ is the essence of the incarnation, and as John said:  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth . . . and of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace (John 1:14, 16).

When I observe people today, I wonder if their holiday happenings are a celebration of this grace and truth or an aberration of its substance.

When you look at the faces and into the eyes of the people you meet on the street:  What do you see?  Is it a lighthearted twinkle or a heavyhearted wrinkle?   Is it the glad refrain of the fullness of Christ or is it the sad disdain of the world’s dullness?

What’s the difference between the two?  Isn’t the incarnation the demarcation of wholeness and hole-ness?  Christmas is a contrast between the love of God and the lack of the world. Paul captured this in his letter to the Colossians:

  • In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9).
  • In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19).
  • In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

The joy, peace, and fullness that you hunger for will never be found in a neatly wrapped package beneath a tree:  It is only found in the baby who was born on Christmas day.