If you were to visit my neighborhood tonight, you wouldn’t have to go far before being confronted by more than one of those front yard animatronic Santas that repeatedly drop their drawers to reveal “Happy Holidays” written in script on their rears. Down the block, there’s a rifle-toting Frosty the Snowman in camouflage gear, while SpongeBob grins weirdly at baby Jesus in the blow-up manger scene close by. I live in the Midwest, but I’m sure that wherever you are, the scene is similar.
It’s all very confusing.
Christmas has come to represent over-the-top materialism, endless parties, spiked eggnog, and that ubiquitous loop of holiday songs in the background everywhere – even at the gas station. It seems obvious: Christmas has been turned into a mostly secular holiday.
But before you go getting all nervous that I am about to launch into a rant about how NOT to observe Christmas, let me assure you I have exactly the opposite intent. Here’s my suggestion for a more meaningful season:
What if we focus on this holiday not just as Christmas, but also as “Incarnation Day”? Here’s why:
This world is broken; we all know that. It goes way beyond the materialism that has infused a holy observance. Storms destroy, diseases ravage, wars rage, and – dear God! – innocent children are slaughtered. We understand at the deepest level of our beings that this is not right, will never be right, and must be corrected somehow.
Yet for all our technological advances, our laws and prisons, our vigils and demands, we can’t fix this mess.
We can’t even fix our own small lives.
Ever wonder why brokenness bothers us so much?
We cry out for justice because we are made in the image of a just God. We demand retribution because we understand that someone should pay for grievous wrongs that are committed.
We long for hope because we are made in the image of a loving God. We know in our hearts that there must be an antidote to evil. Where would we be if we didn’t have hope that wrongs would be righted and good would prevail?
We crave beauty and goodness because we are made in the image of a perfect God. His original design for our world has been tainted by sin. But as His image-bearers, we intuitively recognize what has been lost.
But there’s this: The night Christ was born, God Himself entered the equation in human form and gave us lasting hope.
It was the beginning of a whole new chapter of human history, a chapter that would end with all things being made right and good defeating evil. It was Incarnation Day.
God came to earth as an innocent child and from the moment He was born, the “fix” was in. He would be the One to take the punishment for the sins of all humanity, from the smallest slights to the most condemnable injustices. His payment would apply, in this divine economy, to all who chose to accept it. He promised that if we would look to Him for forgiveness, His sacrifice would be counted in our favor and our faith in Him would be “credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).
Someone had to pay and Christ – God Incarnate – agreed to be the One. What a plan. What a love.
You can read the story of Christ’s life in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, from the time of his birth to his death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension back into Heaven. It is a thrilling account of divine love and the promise of ultimate victory for those who believe.
Because of the incarnation, because Christ was born and lived among us, we have real hope.
When God reached down on Incarnation Day and made Himself human, he put in place a plan to redeem all humanity and draw us back to Himself. This is the real gift of Christmas. We can trust that when He says the time is right, all evil will be eliminated and suffering will end. As Wayne Watson once sang, “At the ultimate healing, we’ll be home free.”
For now, we still live in a broken, messy world. Horrible things happen every day and sadly, many still reject His offer of salvation. With so much pain and heartbreak it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that in the end God will set things right.
It is because we are image-bearers of the living God that we are outraged at evil. But we can trust that our tears never go unnoticed by God (Psalm 56:8) and that He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). It’s a hard hope, but our pain is never wasted; our God is good.
Yes, Santa is innocent fun (as long as he keeps his pants on) and who doesn’t like getting gifts? Armed Frosty in camo gear may be questionable and drunken parties certainly don’t bring out the best in anyone. But remembering that what we are really celebrating is God becoming human – Incarnation Day – that puts Christ back square in the middle of Christmas.
What do you think? Does the idea of Incarnation Day bring you joy? How else can we rethink Christmas to remind us of God’s promises in a broken world? You’re welcome to join the conversation by leaving a comment.
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