Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Christmas

The atmosphere on earth usually is jubilant during Christmas. People do everything they can to celebrate the 25th of December. Many non believers join in the commotion and busyness of Christmas even without understanding the meaning. They are just following the flow of the mood of the holiday without being aware of whom they are celebrating. The world has pushed what Christmas is actually about to become mere celebration of presents and family togetherness, and put Santa Claus as the mascot. Many imaginations in the secular world today that relate to Christmas have been about anything except Jesus Christ. Shops put on big “sale” banners to attract consumers to buy gifts for family members, significant others, business partners, and even strangers. But sadly, many times the gift idea is never Jesus Christ.

A long time ago in a lowly town of Bethlehem, the God of heaven and earth sent His One and Only Son to the world for the sole purpose of salvation of humankind. God chose a perfect time to come to the world as a baby born in a stable and put on a manger. No place in the world is worthy of the presence of the One True God, but yet when He came the worst place for birthing was the only place available for Him. If you are a king, and your son, a crown prince, is about to be born for you, wouldn’t you want the best place for him? Wouldn’t you order your subjects to prepare the best for the coming of your son? And what would happen if your subjects give your son the worst place ever known? The Son of God came to the world belonging to Him, yet His subjects rejected him from top to bottom. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). The coming of the Son of God had been foretold hundreds of years before. But yet His own people did not prepare the best for their King. The Magi of the east came to Israel to inquire of the birth of the Greatest King. The secret was given to the Jews, but they were not interested in the coming of their Savior. Worst, Israel’s king, Herod, ordered the slaughter of the Son of God. All male younglings under two years old were murdered in one night, but God sent His Son away from the massacre. Shouldn’t we shudder in the presence of the God of the universe? But the Jews dared to attempt murder of the One and Only Son of God. The Magi, the wise of the East, bowed in the presence of a baby who was God himself. But the Jewish leaders, the religious, the protector of the Law, devised the most wicked scheme to shed God’s blood.

Of course if the story above is to be told to the generations of people, then it wouldn’t be attractive. Kids wouldn’t engage with the narrative. Adults would cringe and frown for the story is grim. Thus they replace the grand story of the true Christmas with the mellow and soft story about Santa Claus and his elves from the North Pole distributing gifts to all the children in the world in one night through every chimney and stock them in socks. Years gone by and soon people forgot the story of God’s sacrifice on the first Christmas. The Santa story is more attractive among the children, and also the adults who are telling stories. With commercialization directing the economy and thus the life of many people, and Santa story sells more than the Jesus story, then the Jesus story becomes a myth and legend while the Santa story is told like it is real. In the 21st century, seldom have I seen a book, a movie, or a story retelling the heartbreaking reality occurred two thousand years ago when Augustus was the Caesar in Rome and Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea. This Christmas, there are many storybooks, movies, written about Christmas, but most of them don’t even touch the truth of God’s love. Almost all cities in the world celebrate Christmas year after year, and God looks from above year after year, what do you think He would find in the hearts of man during Christmas? Will he find Jesus? Or will He find greed, envy, hatred, ignorance, blasphemy, evil?

The true Christmas story is the most difficult story to ponder. Why did God come to the world? Doesn’t He know that He would be rejected on His coming? Of course He knows, He is God. Why then did He insist to come? Doesn’t He always know that not only He would be rejected, but also that He would suffer a most painful death through betrayal, conspiracy, and injustice? Why then did He still persist to come? The God of heaven and earth, who should have received honor and reverence from all the inhabitants of the earth, was instead humiliated during His one time incarnation. This is unthinkable. What does drive God to come and die in the hands of His own creation? God did not suffer defeat by man, for God could have just destroyed the entire universe with a single utterance. God let Himself be butchered by His artwork. For what purpose? Why would a Great God, Wise beyond comprehension, Almighty without comparison, allow suffering upon His own being? Unfathomable indeed. I’m sure all of us, if we were God, would definitely consider annihilating the world knowing full well that the creation would hurt us upon arrival. Fortunately we are not God. The God of heaven and earth did not cast the universe into oblivion, but instead planned for its restoration. The only way, which is the most difficult way-none more difficult is in existence, is for the Son of God to suffer hell to the fullest, beginning from the birth in a stable. God the Son walked that way. The agony of death on the cross, hated by His own creation, humiliated to the lowest, stripped of all the deserving glory, denied life although He Himself was life, engulfed in darkness so His Light could not be seen, wounded the Greatest Healer of all, bled to death the Sustainer of all life, forsaken by His own Father, all these Jesus bore on the cross to the full measure. All for what? "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). All for love.

The greatest action in history starts on Christmas day. But its origin begins before the world began. In eternity God plans the salvation of the world. When the first humans received their souls, God began telling the grandest story of all. If J. K. Rowling’s telltale of a wizard boy named Harry Potter could capture the hearts of millions of people and made her the richest writer ever in the world, how should The True Story of Christmas captivate the hearts of man whom God saves from true death? But again, the true story is not considered as attractive as the imaginative story of an old man in the red suit flying with his sleigh and his magical reindeers. The children are in awe listening to the heroic story of Santa and his adventure year after year coming out of his hiding giving away billions of toys handmade by elves to all the children in the world. So all the Christmas decoration in the world is amazingly uniform with Santa in the red suit and the evergreen coniferous trees stuffed with hanging items and lights and showered with gifts wrapped in pretty boxes and ribbons. So the image of Christmas is no longer a baby wrapped in a cloth sleeping on a manger worshipped by the shepherds, the magi, and the angels. But the image of Christmas is consumerism reflected by Santa and the bag of goodies. The meaning of Christmas is no longer God’s sacrifice for the salvation of mankind, but it has shifted to the human self-centeredness pampered by material gifts. The most beautiful and incomparable gift from heaven, the jewel of the throne of the Kingdom of God, God himself, has been replaced with the low gifts of the world. The greatest present from God that cannot be bought even with all the richness of the entire universe has been exchanged by man with a few dollars worth of gifts. It has been two thousand years, and humans still don’t yet understand the true meaning of Christmas. Unbelievable!

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

No human has ever been called with those four names. Only God can bear the weight of the names. Chinese are especially sensitive to name giving. The influence of Confucianism is deep within the Chinese culture. The proper name theory bears truth in all reasonable perspectives. Anything, anyone, must bear the proper name, for the name reflects the true nature of the thing or being. Which child born among humans can be called with all four names: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”? Not one except Jesus Christ. No human on earth has ever had his/her birth or existence prophesied thousands of years before by numerous prophets and by God himself, except that of Jesus Christ. Christmas is about Jesus Christ. It is not about Santa. The name of the day is Christmas, Christ-mas, and not Santamas, Santa-mas. If even an obvious thing like Christmas has been twisted by the craftiness of man, it shows how deep humans have fallen. The lost meaning of Christmas in today’s world shows why we need Jesus Christ and why Christmas is of the utmost important birth day to remember due to its significant impact for humankind. In Christmas humans are invited to celebrate the birth of God on earth even though there is deep sadness in heaven because God must sacrifice the Son.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

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