“D’oh! I WISH we could just ______________________________!”
Really? I’ve often wished God would immediately give “I-WISHers” exactly what they just demanded. Individually. Immediately. Since He alone sees Past-Present-Future all at once, He’s able to pull a Cosmic switcheroo and make everything and everyone around the “I-WISHer” exactly as it and they would be, if they’d gotten their way.
Yeah. Kind of like your own private A Christmas Carol visitation from all three ghosts at once.
I’ve been hearing an recurring complaint about Christmas, which, of course, is actually a complaint about Christ. Without Him, nothing about Christmas makes any sense. It seems to be a cyclical whine, since I remember preaching a Christmas message 17 years ago, “WHAT IF JESUS HAD NOT COME?”
Messages are boring; I get it. Let me see if I can make it interesting for you.
“Man, I’m SICK of all this ‘Jesus-this, Jesus-that’ junk! Can’t we just have a nice Christmas without all that?”
If God had not come here in the form of Jesus, there would be no Christmas. Though Christmas cards are swiftly disappearing in favor of social media pictures and up-to-date posts, there would be neither. There might be such solstice décor as pine boughs, but there’d be little reason to hang holly wreaths and cedar branches.
There’d be no colorful packages, no trees with twinkling lights, no scented Christmas candles. Why? NO CHRISTMAS.
There wouldn’t be any carols. No Away In A Manger or Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come–because He didn’t.
I remember as a boy loving to walk along the frozen sidewalks downtown and looking through frosty store windows at the decorations, while listening to Hark, The Herald Angels Sing, White Christmas and Silver Bells playing over loudspeakers along main street in our little town of Hermiston, Oregon. I was always reassured that Christmas was finally here when the city workers hung the huge Christmas ornaments on light poles in the main downtown area, and lighted them.
None of that would have happened. On the radio, nothing would be playing that distinguishes December from June. Same old stuff, except merchants would have ice melt and snow shovels in display. No big deal. It’s just December; come on New Year’s party! WHY? NO CHRISTMAS.
If God had not come here in the form of Jesus, there would be no Church as we know it. No stunning sanctuaries . . . no soaring spires pointing toward Heaven . . . no services of praise and worship . . . no meeting each week in churches you’d grown up in, sensing God’s presence and feeling the Holy Spirit doing His work. No gathering for Christmas Eve and Christmas programs, or hearing a choir and orchestra perform Handel’s MESSIAH. WHY? THERE NEVER WAS ONE. You DO recall Jesus came to tell us about God, right? And He said if He didn’t go away again, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come . . .
If there was anything resembling a hymnal, it’d be thin, if it had anything of worth in it at all. There’d be NO songs about Jesus, His birth, life, death, resurrection and return. Nothing in it about Christ’s glory, power, and redemption. No Old Rugged Cross, no Great Is Thy Faithfulness or How Great Thou Art. No Jesus here, folks. Move along.
What about those ugly, forgettable days of dark grief when depression, loneliness, temptation and heartache all seem to be tag-teaming you? We’ve all had those, and it’s during those heart-shredding moments when a verse of an old hymn seems to seep through the cold, impersonal hurt like an old family friend dropping by for coffee. But if Jesus had never come, there’d have been none of them written. Think about it.
If God had not come here in the form of Jesus, there’d be no comfort for the dying, and those who grieve for them. If there was such a thing as a religious book, there’d be none of the beloved, favorite Scripture passages you’ve relied on all your life to offer strength, hope, and wisdom.
What there was would likely end with Malachi, and God’s people having dwindled and drifted during the 400 years of the “No-Jesus, No-God” types getting their way. If the prophetic books were allowed to remain, they’d be so redacted and rewritten that there would be NO mention of a coming Savior, of deliverance from bondage. None of that would have any meaning. NO GOSPEL, NO HOPE–BECAUSE THERE IS NO JESUS.
At the memorial service, there are no comforting passages of Scripture, words of assurance and comfort. No consolation, no concept of the hope of a wonderful resurrection. There’s no serious thought of ever meeting that loved one again, and no eternal home in Heaven.
Just “ashes to ashes and dust to dust”, and one long, sad, eternal farewell. No inspiration from Job’s saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives . . .” WHY? BECAUSE THERE IS NO REDEEMER. You’re out of luck. You lived. You died.
About now, you might be getting the point. Enemies of Christ don’t get to pick and choose which benefits of God’s Grace they want to hang onto, while tossing in the dumpster all that Jesus stuff that makes ’em squirm. Or mad.
There’s a reason the old carol advises all the faithful to be joyful and triumphant. A reason why Bethlehem’s stable is still such a King-size bed. This wasn’t – isn’t – just a divine being who came to temporarily make things a little better for a few.
Jesus came to offer some real-word, honest-to-goodness hope–to everyone who’d receive it!
Be glad! Rejoice! Jesus DID come, He DID live among us as our example, and He DID die and rise from death so we can also live! Jesus IS alive forever! As one of my mentors wrote:
Even kids know it. Recently, a little boy was telling his younger brother who Jesus is. Nodding, he wisely said, “Jesus is that guy with God in him. And it’s not a costume. He’s for real.” In some small way, we all have God inside us. Not because we bought God, like some holiday present, but because God is willing to come inside the worst possible moment we have ever had. When we can see no hope nor possibility for happiness, along comes December with the unbelievable Good News that Christmas changes everything. It’s for real. And you can’t buy it.” —Tom Shane, The Newton Kansan, 12/12/00
2nd Cup friend, we’ve all seen what our nation and world looks like with the influence of Christ and His Church among us. I doubt anyone, no matter how jaded or self-absorbed, seriously wants any part of a society or world where there is permanently no Christ.
They had already seen 400 years of that, and all but gave up hope of things ever being good or decent or praiseworthy again. All their political and religious gurus had convinced them it was never going to be any better again. Get used to it.
Then Jesus came. Defying all odds, and all the prognostications of the brains of their time, Jesus showed up exactly how God had foretold through the prophets He would.
And aren’t you forever glad He did?
© D. Dean Boone, December 2017