This Is Christmas

Nothing in my world feels like Christmas.
There is no tree in my living room.
And I don’t think there will be.
The roommates are scattering to the four winds when school gets out in less than two weeks.

I have almost no money so there is very little shopping to do.

The ambience is missing. Warm weather, volcanoes, earthquakes, flowers in bloom, squashes ripening on the vine – these things do not say “Christmas” to my heart.

No Hallmark channel so no cheesy movies.
And no Christmas commercials since I don’t watch TV.
Christmas music only if I choose to play it.

Frankly, it doesn’t even feel like December.
And it certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas.

And I am glad.

Because Christmas, contrary to popular opinion, is not a feeling.

Don’t get me wrong.
I love the ambience, the trappings and the trimmings.
And I am glad that I will be home with family for it again this year.
Glad that there will be a tree and yummy foods, gifts and carols, cold weather and decorations.

But I am also glad that this year is very, very different for me.

Because Christmas was never meant to be a feeling.
Or trimmings, trappings and things.

Christmas is scandal.

A young woman, barely an adult, claiming to be impregnated by the Most High God.

Her fiancé, a businessman in the community, having to decide who and what to believe. Did she cheat? Is she pure? Or is she insane? A liar, a lunatic or the love of his life?

The Son of God born in a stable and placed in a manger. No softness except his mother’s body and a bed of straw. No cozy bedroom, no clean house. A feed trough for a bed.

Some crazy shepherds making claims about angelic visions in the night. Who were they to be told first? Who were they to have the privilege of the first visit?

Then the escalation of the heavenly war, God versus Satan, already in progress, now manifest by the murder of baby boys by a wicked king, bent on protecting his throne.

And a young family fleeing into the night, becoming strangers in a strange land, refugees and immigrants in Egypt to escape that same evil king.

This is Christmas.
Scandalous events.
And scandalous grace.

The One who spoke the world into being becoming a speechless infant.
The Almighty unable to hold up his own head.
The Omnipotent devoid of all power.

And then that same sinless God-made-man choosing powerlessness again at the end of his life.
Submitting to torture.
Slaps. Spit. Slashes with a Roman whip.
Thorns thrust into his scalp.
A purple robe thrown over mangled flesh.
All while knowing every detail of every person who mocked him.
And loving them still.
Willing to take their punishment, even for the sin of punishing an innocent man.

This is Christmas.

Four limbs.
Three nails.
One cross.

Six hours of agony.
Separation from God the Father.
And the crushing weight of sin.

Unable to breathe without pushing up on the nail in his feet.
Yet able to forgive the ones who “know not what they do”.

This is Christmas.

A cold, dark journey just before dawn, carrying spices and fretting about who will roll away the stone.
Shock and confusion that the tomb was empty.
Elation at the words of the angel: “He is not here. He is risen, just as He said.”

This is Christmas.

Light piercing the darkness.
The veil of the Temple torn in two.
The ability to “boldly come before the throne of grace to receive help in time of need.”

This is Christmas.

So it is OK that I am not feeling “it” this year.
Because Christmas is not a feeling.

It is friendship with the Most High God.
It is the guarantee of eternal life and the glories of heaven that awaits.
It is the knowledge that I am never, ever alone.
And that He has ALL my life under control.

It is knowing that resurrection power is available every moment of my life.
And that I have all I need for life and godliness because I have Him.
It is the sure knowledge that He will go to any length to pursue me.
And that He found me to be worth dying for long before I found Him to be everything I need.
It is the promise that He will complete the good work He began in me.
That He will one day return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And that I do not have to fear the future in this life or the next.

This is Christmas.
Scandalous events.
Scandalous grace.
Scandalous love.

Joy to the world, indeed!

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