Call me nostalgic, but I really love this time of year.
I recall thinking last year that I need take more advantage of the fun of this holiday, because before I know it, it is gone. I love decorating my home, listening to Christmas music, and shopping online for my Christmas gifts that have major discounts and free shipping. My wife and I are empty nesters as of this fall, and it excites me to have my girls home from college. Giggling in the house to the tenth power. Tasty treats being made, like, every day. Laughing our heads off watching the movie Elf.
Life is good.
The familiar helps me to remember
Though each season brings a newness, it also brings a familiarity with it as well. And I enjoy what is familiar because it causes me to remember. Every fresh Christmas season also brings with it what I do not want to forget. What I should not forget. The gift of memory is a precious thing, and it is in the forgetting that life becomes stale or boring.
Though in a new stage of life with my kids, this time of year helps me remember why I love them so much, even though they are not living at home on a day-to-day basis. And now I have two manly grandsons in the mix! And though I have celebrated 27 Christmases with my wife, it is the collective thoughts of the past that make our present so satisfying.
The nativity…and then some
Another reason that I welcome the Christmas season is the mental calibration that is offered in seeing nativity scenes around town, on cards, and in media. I see the babe in the manger, Mary and Joseph huddled around, with the ever-present donkey, camel, and lambs making the scene what we have always remembered it to be.
But if not careful, I can remember the “warm and fuzzy” of this scene but not take my thoughts much further. Meaning, this scene, this grand finale that is included in every church Christmas pageant across this country, is not meant to stop here. Yes, I know of the King who came as a baby in a lowly manger, I sing the carols, I reflect.
But I must also remember the metanarrative or grand story of what I take in during this time of the year.
I must also remember the why. Why did Jesus have to come to earth? Why did He come in such a meager fashion? Why did He have to die?
And it is in answering this very important question of why that the fulness of a bigger message, a better story, overtakes me when seeing that babe in a manger. Because I sell the story short if I stop with that nostalgic nativity scene.
The horrible exchange
The truth of it is this: I was born with an exchanged mindset. In other words, when God gave me Himself, I needed no more. I was given love, significance, purpose, and joy.
To the very fullest.
But I exchanged all that because I was born going my own way. I exchanged God for what God created. And as a born worshipper, I began worshipping the creation over the Creator. It was never meant to be that way. Just read Romans 1. And my identity, which gives me significance, value, and worth, and which was always meant to be in Jesus, I began to find in lesser things. Like me and all my stuff. Like my pursuit, my way, and my agenda. And this baby in a manger was a divine response to my fatal response.
This is what the grander story is about. This is really what we are meant to see when we ponder the baby Jesus in the manger. We are meant to see good news – or what we call the Gospel. It was a rescue mission. He came to me because I could never come to Him. The One who never sinned actually became my sin so that I could be rescued from me. And I could have a new identity – not an identify in brokenness, but an identity in Jesus as an adopted son of God. He performed so that I do not have to. And now I get to serve a better King, an eternal King, my brother, and my friend.
So when I ask, “Did you forget what you were supposed to remember this Christmas?,” it is this that we must also see. To only remember a baby, manger, animals, and Mary and Joseph does provide a fond memory, but it is incomplete. Because that young one, that Prince of Peace, is actually God with us, or Immanuel. And though I would like to think that He simply just wanted to be with us, that is not the fuller context.
The fuller picture is that He had to be with us if my rebel heart would be anything other than a rebel heart. He offered me life when I had none. He made me a son when I was a prodigal. He promised to make me look like Him so that I can have the full joy for which me heart thirsts.
That is what this time of year is all about. We certainly do celebrate His birth. And the nativity reminds us of that. But do not forget to also celebrate the why of His birth because it is a grand story that also very much includes you and I. Because if you merely see a nativity scene, you are liable to miss an opportunity for some true gratitude and thanksgiving.