What morbid blows does the sword of time deal to youthful faith. The mysteries of yesterday are today's forgotten fables, though I dare say that embers of legend still glow under the ashes of our burnt out faith.
They tend to glow a bit hotter this time of year as we hang the stockings on the mantle, decorate the tree with lights and tensile, sip homemade hot-chocolate next to a blazing fire and wake up to a once familiar world made magical overnight by the spell of the white, winter wizard. Parents will continue the traditional ruse of the midnight giver, dressed in red and white, commander of his gravity defying vessel stacked high with toys, pulled by flying stags, rewarding all the good girls and boys. Yes, nostalgia and sentimentalism poke at the cooling coals of mystery in the human soul for a brief time until the day after Christmas and then are covered again from the gravy and ham, spiked eggnog, empty boxes, wads of wrapping paper and disappointed looks.
With Christmas being so closely associated with legend and tradition it becomes natural to delegate the Story of Christmas to the realm of fiction. But the Christmas story is not a work of fiction; rather, it is a work of redemptive history. It does not begin with the “once upon a time” of familiar fables, it starts with the facts of history, “In those days” (Luke 2:1). The sitcom philosopher Stanley Hudson said, “ I want Christmas. Just give me Christmas! Plain, old, baby Jesus lyin’-in-a-manger Christmas!” He speaks more truth of the meaning of Christmas than he may realize.
Every once in a while I will resolve myself to get something done. Usually it is a simple task like getting up from the recliner and making my way to the refrigerator to search its recesses for a sweet treat. Sometimes I actually reach the refrigerator before I have to stop myself and ask “What am I doing? Why did I come to the fridge? ” That is how quickly I can forget things. I think it is especially important this time of year, as we walk toward Christmas morning, to stop and ask ourselves “Why are we doing this again?”
If you start at you own house and walk past the German Christmas tree, and out into the night, past the lights hanging from gutters, and lawns decorated with Biblically inaccurate blowup nativity scenes, past shop windows brightened with lights and snowy scenes, past Tiny Tim on Bob Cratchit's shoulders, past St. Nicholas handing out gifts to needy children and travel two-thousand years in the past to a moment in time that divided history, you would find yourself at the birth of a baby, the incarnation of God himself, Emmanuel, the very Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Luke 2:11-12: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
Christmas is very simply the celebration and recognition that on a day two-thousand years in the past, God became man so that he may redeem his people. Deep down the embers of this truth still glow, though they may be covered over by years of skepticism, apathy and legend. Why else do we await this time of year with eager anticipation? Why do we blast carols which even on secular stations sing of the Saviors birth? Because we know that it is about more than presents under lighted trees, candy-canes in our hot-chocolate, and a fat dude in red velvet (though these can all be good in their own way). It is about the one who came in to the world to save the world. The mystery of this season rekindles in us the notion that there just might be some truth to the legend.
So this Christmas morning, may your hearth reveal the mystery of the spiritual summit. May your house become the “plain where shepherds watch their flock”, the sky that bursts with angel's light and voices singing Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!", the star that guides you to the King of Kings; may it be a morning celebrating the true story of redemptive history and the birth of our Savior.