It’s the season of gift-giving, celebrations, and yes, stress and hectic pressure also.
Most of the world celebrates: companies have Christmas parties; communities provide plays and festive carol singing; churches offer Christmas pageantry, carols, concerts and joyous events; and of course, families get together for merriment and Christmas cheer. For many it evokes pictures of a white Christmas, for others a summer Christmas, and for most a frenzied buying, baking and cooking that leaves exhausted at the end of it all. For some it’s a time of utter loneliness and pain.
Southern Germany starts celebrating and gift-giving during Advent, the time of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ; the marking and commemoration of His birth.
Yet, is this truly what moves the greater part of the world? In a mostly secularized environment, the concept of the Babe in the Manger is just that, a Baby Jesus that fills children with ooohs and aaaahs but doesn’t alter much in our daily habits. Had this little baby not gone on to become a mighty proclaimer of the Kingdom of God? Of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace for all? Without Christ, this Christmas affair is rather an empty, meaningless event.
This Baby Jesus however – God’s gift to humankind – is the same Jesus who later on, during His public ministry, would invite all who would listen: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”(Matthew 11:28-29, NKJB).
This Baby Jesus, is the same who in adulthood said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37b-38, NKJB).
Knowing that by ignoring God, the world would sink into further hopelessness and meaninglessness, Jesus brought the Good News of his Father’s reconciliation and restoration for everyone. News that holds the promise of a better future and citizenship in another incomparable world.
As is God’s manner, it’s an invitation, not an obligation; the invitation is offered to all. No RSVP required. No pressure exerted. He asks: “Would you like My peace?”, “Would you like My strength to help you lift those burdens you can’t carry by yourself?” “Would you like to taste those living waters that, once tasted, will keep you satisfied and regenerated?”
These are but a few of the many invitations God, through his Son, extends to us. They speak of a generous, loving and merciful God. They also speak of a God who will not impose His love and forgiveness to anyone – we are free to say: “No, thanks” and continue in disappointing self-realization, fruitless efforts and bewilderment or, “Yes, I’d like to accept”, and suddenly discover a freedom we couldn’t fathom. After all, unless we try, we won’t find out. God’s gift and invitation have no strings attached . . . except that of a new heart.
This Christmas, let’s pause and ponder at the why’s and the how’s of the season and how they can bring true hope and healing into a suffering world.
Wishing all of you a peaceful, restful and meaningful Christmas,
See you in 2014 (DV)!