Remember that original Christmas crank, Ebenezer Scrooge?
It was said of Mr. Scrooge, following his change of heart, “. . . he knew how to keep Christmas well . . .”. As Christians, the same should be said of us. I have wondered, what it means though, to “keep Christmas well”. Obviously, it means that we celebrate rather than ignoring the holiday, but perhaps it also involves much more. Perhaps it involves what we celebrate and how we celebrate it.
During Advent we celebrate the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan on Earth. When God became flesh and dwelt among us, it marked the unfolding of that plan. However, with each piece of the redemption story irretrievably intertwined, it is nearly impossible to celebrate one aspect without acknowledging the whole. Yet during this season, we focus on His entrance, in human form, into this world He Created to make reconciliation possible between fallen humanity and Holy God. His mission: become the atoning sacrifice necessary for of the redemption of mankind. Only perfect, holy Jesus could make such a sacrifice—God in human form, able to die a human death and emerge victorious on the other side. Only He could do such a thing, and it was for that purpose He entered our world as the Christ Child we celebrate during Advent.
I have wondered though, how exactly, does one kill the Author of Life? How does one arrest and overpower the Omnipotent One? It is only possible, if He voluntarily laid down His life—which He did. As the religious ruling class formulated plans for His demise, they played directly into God’s hands. Jesus’ sole purpose for entering time and space was to appease the wrath of God by paying our sin-debt Himself with His own holy blood.
It’s during Advent we celebrate the glorious mystery of God transforming Himself into a human embryo, gestating within Mary’s womb and being born like any other human infant. We marvel with the shepherds as the sky was ripped open, brilliant light and angels spilled onto the Judean countryside proclaiming the good news of Messiah’s birth. We join the shepherds and bow at His manger in worship. The next moment, we lift our eyes from the manger, acknowledging the coming cross and heaviness of Good Friday, for a sacrifice must be made. Yet the somber dirge of Good Friday explodes into the victory cry of Easter! Christ conquered the stranglehold of evil over mankind, making a public spectacle of them openly. The redemptive plan of God unfolding before our eyes—all because He became flesh and dwelt among us. All because of His coming that we anticipate throughout Advent and celebrate on Christmas Day!
We each stand astounded, captured by the same amazing grace.
Each of us purchased at the same exorbitant price–the blood of Heaven’s perfect Lamb.
Each of us, who choose to trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross where He paid the penalty for our sin, enters eternal life through the same door – Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth and The Life.
Because of this grace poured out upon us, we cannot help but celebrate our salvation. As Christians, “keeping Christmas” involves celebrating our redemption with the same practices that mark our lives as Christians throughout the year. “Keeping Christmas” marks all that we do and say no matter the season.
As Christ-followers, we do what He says and our lives are marked by His teachings. His teachings are summed up this statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Therefore, our lives are marked by devotion to God and love for each other. The same issues that raise His ire, arouse His compassion or move Him to action, move us as well. Our love for each other is marked not merely by sentiment, but by deeds of compassion. We extend the same grace and kindness we’ve experienced from our Savior and meet the needs of others in tangible ways. (1 John 3:18) When we emulate Him, we speak encouragement, kindness and words of hope over one another. It shows up as we unselfishly invest in the well-being of others. (Colossians 3:12-16)
As we celebrate the season among relatives and faith family with the sharing and receiving of these rich blessings, let us also rejoice in Christ. For these blessings of plenty, the joys of family and deep friendship all emanate from Christ. In His holy light we sing, give gifts and feast and rejoice. He came not only to give us abundant life here on Earth, but to give us everlasting life. Therefore, we celebrate this holy season with joy and “keep Christmas” as we commemorate Him coming to redeem us all.
Therefore, may the same be said us as was said of Mr. Scrooge, following his change of heart, that we “keep Christmas” well. So, we raise a cup of kindness, belt out a hearty chorus of redemption’s story as we stand arm in arm with fellow redeemed sinners. We rejoice in our great salvation and our hearts overflow as we say softly to one another: “God bless us. God bless us—every one!”