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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
These verses have been on my mind a lot the last few weeks. Ask any sports fan, and they’ll know John 3:16 because someone always has it written on a sign in the crowd. They probably even know the verse itself because you can only read something so many times without getting curious. But the son of a friend pointed out that 3:16 shouldn’t be separated from John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Maybe we should make signs that say John 3:17. That would make people pause and take notice.
The baby. The man who died on a cross didn’t come to condemn us. He came to save us.
This is it. It’s the most important thing to remember at Christmas. If we don’t know this truth, none of what we do at Christmas makes sense. Without the baby we have no reason to haul boxes of decorations from our attic, get up on a ladder to put up lights, buy gifts, sing carols, bake cookies, visit family, wrap presents, or cut down perfectly healthy trees and bring them inside. These traditions are silly if the baby in the manger isn’t God.
Let me say, I’m the biggest fan of Christmas. I love everything about it. You can find me listening to Christmas music before Halloween some years. I love putting up my Christmas village. I love wrapping presents. I actually love wrapping presents. But, even for me, the stuff of Christmas can be too much. I get weary. I buy tickets for Christmas performances, but then I regret it when it comes time to go. I lose my patience digging through unfolded laundry to find something festive for my kids to wear. I get behind on my regular routine. I get weary. It can all be too much. I was thinking about this, and it occurred to me. How do non-christians handle Christmas? I promise I’m not being facetious. If, in the end, we don’t have the hope of a Savior, why would we want to mess with the stuff of Christmas? If the baby isn’t a savior, I’d want to pass on all the decorating, overspending, and exhaustion.
Babies are born all the time. Some even have interesting birth stories. We’ve all heard about babies being born in the car on the way to the hospital or born too early. That’s an interesting birth story, but probably not one that will be told for thousands of years.
We celebrate the baby because He is God’s own Son. He came to save the world and if we believe in him, we will live forever. That’s an interesting birth story.
What do we do with this?
1. Cut out the “stuff” of Christmas that makes you forget the joy. Give yourself permission to not dress your kid up as an elf for elf day or to skip a meaningless tradition. These things can become the thing instead of the joy of the season. I’m not saying go all out “Christmas with the Kranks”. But edit a little. Just because you’ve done it in the past, doesn’t mean you have to do it every year. Make new traditions that focus on faith, family, and slowing down a little.
2. Remember, Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn it. So, why do we as Christians love to condemn so much? We are combative, judgmental, and all together the opposite of our Savior. Jesus came to earth to show the love of God. He came to love. As Christians, are we marked by love? Let's do everything in our power to be marked by love.
3. It’s called the Good News for a reason. It’s not “okay news” or even a “good secret”. News is meant to be shared. And the news is good. Jesus, the baby and the man, didn’t come to condemn us but to save us. He didn’t come so we could have a holiday. Let me say that again. He didn’t come so we could have a holiday. Stop trying to defend Christmas and remember, he came to die for our sin. That’s awesome news! We’re good at sharing all kinds of things -funny memes, articles that back up our opinions, germs. And along comes actual good news and we choose not to share it. Why ever not?
I don’t know what your Christmas looks like. It’s probably a lot like mine. We love the highlight reel, but it’s also really tiring. When Clara goes to sleep in "The Nutcracker" or before Scrooge is visited by the ghosts, I’m always thinking how jealous I am that they get to go to sleep. Don’t tell me you haven’t looked into buying a curtained four-poster after seeing A Christmas Carol. How about that line, "They all settled down for a long winter's nap"? I want to step into the book and put on a kerchief. Please tell me I'm not the only one.
This has been said millions of times, but we still do it, so I’ll say it again. Don’t let the stuff of Christmas get in the way of the joy of a Savior in the manger. Linus would say, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”. He’s right.