Away from the busy city filled with lights, the dark winter nights are bright with stars. The celestial configurations enrapture, and the stillness captivates. The lesser lights of the busy city streets can be distracting. The light below veils rather than unveils the natural lights of the night. In much the same way, the season of Christmas can be hidden from view, overshadowed by our inconsequential rituals. Without delicate care, the way we celebrate Christmas tends to herald the lesser lights so that we miss the Star.
In the modern concept of Christmas, there are few silent nights to contemplate the glories of the holy night. The long-awaited Star had come into the darkness, not to be overshadowed by darkness but to be hidden by lesser lights. Blinded by the ordinary, the extraordinary prophesied Son of David appeared but was barely noticed. There was no parade that day to welcome the king of the universe to earth. Aside from the census, Bethlehem was quite ordinary. As Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, few noticed the Savior at 12. He was Immanuel, “God with us,” but scarcely was He known. He remains with us, yet we could be accused of giving Him the same attention as those on the streets of Capernaum. The birth of Christ was announced to those who were silently keeping watch in the quiet of night, and suddenly the declaration of the birth of peace pierced through the darkness. Does the clamor of Christmas jade our view? In the solitude and quiet of night, the light of the world shines brighter, be still and know.
The invasion of lights, malls, sales and traditions into Christmas has skewed our view of Christ. Christ is evident in the name of the holiday and the decorative nativities, but the meaning of Christmas remains obscure. We attempt to Christianize the commercialism with phrases like, “It is better to give than receive.” It is true that Christmas is about giving, but not the giving of things. As Christ is one with the Father, He owns all things. If the giving of temporal blessings were sufficient, there would be no need for Christ’s incarnation and, therefore, no need for His death. He could have managed that type of Christmas, giving from the comfort of His celestial home. The giving of things, however, is a cheap imitation of Christ’s first advent. He made Himself flesh and “dwelt among us.” He did not give men things to please temporarily; rather, He gave Himself to satisfy for eternity. Christmas giving is not the giving of stuff, but the giving of self.
The sacrifice of Christ did not begin on the cross, but in the emptying of Himself to dwell among us, to feel like us, to breathe like us, to agonize like us, to be tempted like us. All the while, He was giving Himself, in obedience to the Father, for us. Giving money is easy—we can always make more of that—but giving yourself is Christmas, because there is nothing more to give. More like the folk drummer boy than the Magi, we “have no gift to bring … that’s fit to give a king.” The giving of Christmas is the sacrificial gift of you so that the world of darkness would see the great light. He was “born to reign in us forever.” The more of my heart I give to thee, the more of your light is shone through me.
Since God’s announcement of a seed that would crush Satan’s head, man had been waiting. Despite man’s consistent rebellion, God was faithful to keep His promise. The proclamation was made, yet Mary waited—nine long months of anticipation. “Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.” The Christ foretold has come. He came to his own, but they did not receive Him because they were not waiting. They had left their post of anticipation and expectancy. The ones not waiting missed the sight of the Star of Bethlehem.
Does Christmas build your anticipation? The fulfillment of the manger prophesied from the infancy of time proves our God is faithful to His promises. He was “born thy people to deliver, born to set thy people free.” The faithfulness proven in His first advent assures the faithfulness to His promise to come again. So we patiently wait for His full deliverance. Christmas is a reminder that God remembers His people and sovereignly brings His promises to pass for His own name’s sake and for our good. “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” And we eagerly wait … celebrating lest we forget the promise.
We live in the land of the imminent, having curiosity’s cure at our finger tips. Rarely do we wonder, for Google has staggered our anticipation. But Christmas demands hope-filled expectancy. We celebrate to commemorate that God dwells with us, that He came to save, and that He keeps His promises. We celebrate to remember that He came to dwell with us, as Immanuel, but also to live with courage, knowing He remains with us until the end of the age. We celebrate that He has set us free from our fears and sins. The fallen and broken tainted by sin, exposed as naked and ashamed, are picked up, made whole, washed and clothed in white. Jesus has been coming from the very start, the promised seed and root of the shoot of Jesse. We celebrate to proclaim that He is the Christ, the hope of all the earth. We celebrate to anticipate the certainty that He is coming again.
Our celebration is a proclamation of lights. Are we celebrating the lesser lights that veil the Christ child Star? Celebrate to declare the past coming of the Savior in order to prepare for the surety of the King’s coming again. Don’t miss the star.