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We have many Christmas traditions around the world, but some of the more common ones are full of symbolic meaning, even if you might not have noticed it.
Christmas tree: Ps. 96 – “Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord, for He comes.” The Christmas tree is one way that we in our faith try to make these words a reality. Trees don’t have voices, but with their lights and decorations they are crying out, in the midst of the world’s darkness, that the Light of the World is here to cover us in His Light. This is even more fitting for us who have just gone through the longest night of the year a few days ago – the night is passing away, the day conquers.
Cookies: Joel’s prophetic book ends with a prophecy about God dwelling in Zion (Jerusalem) and also says in v 3:18 “In that day, the mountains will drip sweetness, and the rivers flow with milk.” The promised land, which symbolizes for us our Heavenly homeland, was always described as a land flowing with milk and honey. Jesus is born today to lead us to that promised land, and yet we begin a foretaste of that even now, where he feeds us with the bread from Heaven, having all sweetness within it.” When Jesus is present among His people, all bitterness disappears, for God shares His honey and milk with us, the signs of his peace, concord, and joy.”
Presents: I went out for a few presents for my family. I was trying to pick something that would be really good for them. You more you love someone, the more you want to give them a great gift. Because the more you love someone, the more you want to show it in all kinds of ways, and a nice gift is one way of showing it.
But the greatest gift you can give, actually isn’t something, it’s someone. Because the greatest gift you can give someone is yourself. You give them your time, your energy, your attention, your forgiveness when they need it, your apologies when you need it, your love. That’s the greatest gift.
God, who loves us infinitely, gives us the best gift we could ever ask for, something we wouldn’t even dare to ask for. Christmas is where we see that gift for the first time. Because God wanted to show His love. He had always loved us, and had showed it in many ways, but now He shows it in the biggest way, through this special gift that is now visible to us.
That gift is Jesus. Jesus is like a gift, a present, because He is God giving Himself to us. Jesus’ entire life is the biggest way God shows His love for you. He gives you Himself because Jesus is God.
What is always on the outside of the presents we get? The stuff we have to tear off as fast as possible…? Yes – the gift wrap also has religious symbolism, when we think about the gift of Jesus. God in His divinity is behind the human nature of this little baby. We don’t see his glory, but it is there hidden just beneath the surface – hidden so that we aren’t afraid to draw close to Him.
The gift of Christmas isn’t fully unwrapped until Easter. It is then that we see everything that God wanted to give us. But here, now, we already know that God has given us everything, even if we don’t know what that means, because here we see that God gives Himself to us. He comes this close to us. He isn’t afraid of our messiness. He doesn’t wait for us to heal ourselves before He comes close. He wants to heal us Himself, and so He must come close to us, so close that he wraps His glory beneath the veil of human flesh.
Join the shepherds who run to adore this newborn king, this Messiah who redeems captive Israel from its enemies by shedding His own blood for us on the cross. The shepherds didn’t take hours getting ready, washing their faces and doing their laundry and looking all prim and proper. Rather, they went straightaway to see this King of Love, the heavenly Shepherd. Let the human face of God unwrap its mystery to you, and thus find your healing in the light that he brings. Then, with the shepherds, carry that light into the darkness that is fading but still present in the brokenness of our world.
Testimony. I wish to invite forward ____________ to share about their own journey of unpacking the greatest gift that God has given her. May it help us all to remember that God invites us to draw close to Him and give Him ourselves after His own example of self-gift.