Wineskins Archive

January 8, 2014

The Ultimat Thrill of Christmas (Nov 1992)

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by Mike Cope
November, 1992

7Though we sometimes speak of “the Christmas story,” Scripture doesn’t really offer just one story. Rather, it contains Christmas stories.

Luke’s Christmas account is the one we’re used to. Luke’s pages are filled with swaddling clothes, a manger, shepherds, angels singing “glory to God in the highest” and Mary treasuring everything in her heart.

Matthew’s Christmas story isn’t as sweet and homey. It’s not the one you like to read to your kids. Matthew tells of the massacre of babies and of Rachel refusing to be consoled.

John – true to form – offers his Christmas story through theological symbolism. Jesus was the word who became flesh to dwell among us, thereby revealing the Father.

And Revelation exposes the flip side of Jesus’ birth. The writer presents Christmas not as tinsel and mistletoe but as a great red dragon chasing a pregnant woman.

Whatever biblical account we select, Christmas is a life-changing event that goes beyond fond family memories. As Henri Nouwen has written:

“Songs, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and many sweet words do not make Christmas. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s work, not mine.”

Paul’s own miniature Christmas sermon points us in the right direction: “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

And how rich we are! Called to be God’s sons and daughters. Filled with the Spirit of God. Baptized into a community of faith to share our new convictions. Inspired by a vision of the world that knows what the final outcome will be. Cleansed! And all because “he became poor.”

This Christmas, while we hang the stockings, while we focus the camcorder, while we pass the pumpkin pie, and while we sing about the red-nosed reindeer, let us not forget to give thanks for the supreme gift of God. Without Bethlehem, there could be no Golgotha.

Let us also give thanks that we have been allowed to participate in this birth. For as Corrie Ten Boom has well said, “If Jesus were born one thousand times in Bethlehem and not in me, then I would still be lost.” The ultimate thrill of Christmas is that God has graciously saved us through Jesus Christ.Wineskins Magazine

Mike Cope

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