With the year coming to a close I found myself also coming to the end of my Through the Bible in 52 Weeks readings for this year. In my reading of the Book of 1 John, I was struck recently by the following passage:
“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” 1 John 4: 2, 3
I didn’t really relate the verses to Christmas, only that I was reading them prior to Christmas, but then as Christmas preparations and events have unfolded, I’ve begun to realize just how much they are indeed, descriptive of the event.
Christmas as it’s celebrated today has become this rather peculiar entity. At the root of the celebration, is the remembering and honoring of the most tremendous event of all of history, the birth of Christ; the point and process of God choosing to enter into humanity. This is an event so stupendous there aren’t really words adequate to describe it, although I’m amazed at just how accurately even some of the more well known carols faithfully mirror the truth and reality of the occasion. A couple of stanzas that come readily to mind are as follows:
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
–Lyrics from: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
And so on the one hand there is this ‘celebration of believers’, in which we are literally, to the entire world, ‘confessing that Christ is come in the flesh’. We are once again acknowledging, remembering, testifying, worshiping of the fact that God is Incarnate, Emmanuel is with us—He dwells as man, He dwells within man.
And yet, superimposed and parallel to this stupendous acknowledgment and confession is this disavowal, this nonadmission of the fact, which in reality seeks to and pretty much usurps the place of the former. We see it characterized in the secularism, ritualism and emotionalism that passes as Christmas. And even though people are caught up in the mystique and grandeur of the event, and even though they participate in some way in the wonder of it, and even though they confess that ‘it’s the happiest time of the year’ etc. etc., in reality, most hearts and minds are darkened due to this superimposition– they literally ‘confess not that Christ is come in the flesh”. The great truth, the wondrous redemption that is Christmas escapes them: they come so close yet miss it so far. Christmas is just some gushy, feel good, let-r-rip holiday affair that brings a little momentary relief and then like exploding champagne bubbles, it pops, and most celebrants return to their daily lives, unmoved, unaffected and unchanged, until they repeat the ritual again the following year, none the wiser.
But this is not meant to be condemnatory; it is simply an acknowledgment of fact. I wish it were not the case. I just know that the real Christmas lies silent, ready to be awakened; indeed to be born, in each and every heart that will receive Him. He’s waiting to be born in your heart right now. Take even these final words of a favorite Christmas carol, personalize them, as I’ve done here, and sing or pray them to Him and enjoy the reality of Christmas now and forever:
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to me I pray;
cast out my sin, and enter in,
be born in me today.
I hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to me, abide with me,
My Lord Emmanuel!