Dear Brothers and Sisters,
One of the joys of parenting is doing something that makes your child laugh, then hearing them say, Do it again! I fondly remember several occasions when that happened to me (I’m sure many of you dads and granddads will relate). I also remember Tammy—always the protective mom—not being particularly fond of what I was doing, yet having a hard time saying so as she laughed right along with the kids!
Perhaps you recall the first time you experienced a little child’s laughter. There is a captivating pureness there that makes you smile. I recall watching a video of a laughing infant that went viral a couple of years ago. Every news media I know of broadcast it due to its trans-cultural accessibility. Watch it at http://youtu.be/RP4abiHdQpc and I’ll bet your heart will be warmed by the pure innocence of that child’s laughter.
Some of life’s greatest moments come when beholding the pure innocence of a child. Of course, the greatest of all such moments occurred over 2,000 years ago when angels and shepherds viewed the baby Jesus—the eternal Son of God become flesh, lying in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. Because Jesus is Immanuel (God with us), we rightfully celebrate his birth every day, but especially at Christmas—the day billions of people are reminded that Christmas is about Jesus, whether they believe him to be the Savior of the world or not. Celebrating his first coming is every bit as important as celebrating his promised second coming—for a number of reasons, not the least of which is there will be no second coming without the first.
As I’m sure you’ve gathered from my series here on the topic of Christmas, I’m a huge fan of celebrating Jesus’ incarnation and birth. I don’t think we can say enough about that blessed event and all it signifies. Note the prophet’s words: “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV). This sign points to Christ’s divinity (he came from outside this world) and his humanity (he came as a newborn baby). Jesus was (and still is) both divine and human—as fully God as is the Father, and as fully human as are you and I.
That Jesus was born in this way also is a sign to us that our Triune God understands our lowly state and shares fully our life with all its limitations and suffering. Our Christian worldview helps us understand that there is more to life than what we experience in our mortal bodies. There is an afterlife, and Jesus promised he would go ahead to prepare a place for us to dwell with him forever. Knowing this truth helps us celebrate Christmas with the assurance that our departed loved ones aren’t separated from us forever. Assured that the Son of God united himself to us through the Incarnation, and thus shares our humanity forever, we are comforted to know that our loved ones are with him when they die. Of course, we suffer the loss of their companionship, but knowing that Jesus has conquered death on our behalf helps us look beyond the sting and tears of our loss to the joy that is signified by Christmas.
Like us, Jesus experienced the pain of losing loved ones, yet he was comforted knowing that his heavenly Father was aware of each and every one of those deaths and of the sorrow such loss brings. As we can, he found comfort in the words of the Psalmist: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8 ESV). The NIV translates it this way: “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” The point is that God sees; he knows and he cares.
That caring is not from a distance. Through the Incarnation God became one of us, assuming our entire human nature from the very beginning to the very end—from the moment of conception to the moment of death, with nothing left out between. In his humanity, the Son of God deeply understands what we are going through and promises to eventually end all pain and suffering. Note the words of the prophet: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 25:8). John makes a similar promise: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
I delight in these reassuring promises, remembering that in the fullness of the kingdom of God there will be no more reason for tears—it will be a time of perfect peace. All this will come to pass because the Son of God became the son of man. And so we celebrate Christmas—rejoicing in the Incarnation and joining the angels in celebrating the birth of Jesus, the pure and innocent One who brings the world eternal peace, joy and love.
I wish you all a happy and blessed Christmas. Our home office will be closed next week so we can spend extra time with family. The next issue of GCI Weekly Update will be published on January 6, the day of Epiphany, which celebrates the revelation of Christ to the world. See you next year!
Resting in and celebrating the pure innocence of Jesus,