It seems really trite to say ‘Jesus is for life, not just for Christmas’ and yet there are so many deep truths that could be unpacked from that statement. I’m going to touch on just one.
As a young atheist I hated Christmas, with its consumerism and ostensibly religious nature. After unexpectedly becoming a Christian, Christmas still held much of the same distastefulness for me for some of the same reasons, its mixed origins and its religious sentimentality that seemed to have little to do with the true message of why Jesus came into the world, with the Bible’s emphasis on the events of Easter rather than Jesus’ birth.
Sometimes I take things far too seriously!
And I suspect that the real reason for my dislike of Christmas was more sub-conscious, to do with unhappy times as a child (see My Life’s Soundtrack).
Having children of my own now (the oldest being 15), I’ve had no choice but to lighten up and soften my attitude towards Christmas. And that’s been a good thing.
But further than that, I’ve begun to appreciate the true wonder of the Son of God entering the broken world of humanity.
My attitude towards Christmas has changed. And I’ve changed because of Christmas, or rather because of Jesus and his life in me. His wholeness healing my brokenness.
To be a Christian is to allow endless possibilities for change and healing.
You cannot be a Christian and remain the same.
For this blog post, I’m going to cheat and let one of my literary and spiritual heroes, the late Brennan Manning (for whom I wrote the tribute Death of a Ragamuffin), explain it far better than I can:
‘The Christmas contemplative knows that hope is a gift, an undeserved gift of peace, but that it is also a call to decision – the decision to trust….
‘Hope thrives on the difficult and challenges the conclusion that our only contribution to the world will be, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “an asphalt driveway in front of our home and a thousand lost golf balls.” Hope convinces us that in clinging to a miserable sense of security and status quo, the possibility of growth and greatness is utterly defeated. Hope says that I no longer need to be dismayed over my personal dishonesty and self-centredness and feeble life of faith. That I no longer need to feel defeated, insensitive, and superficial.
‘Because the question no longer is: Can I do it? Am I able? Can I overcome my moodiness, my laziness, my sensuality, my grudges, and resentments? The only question is: Is Jesus Christ able? Can my Savior, the Lord of my life, revive my drooping spirit and transform me at Christmas as he transformed the world through his birth at Bethlehem?
‘“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33’
(From Reflections for Ragamuffins, p.352)
Brennan Manning experienced the enslavement that alcoholism brings. But like many addicts, he learned the secret of admitting powerlessness over his weaknesses and trusting instead in the ultimate higher power to bring about change.
What we Christians celebrate at Christmas (and Easter) is true for us all year round.
Because of Christ in me, I’m still changing, still growing, still being healed – as long as I continue to put my trust and hope in him, rather than in my self-effort. Where do you place your trust?
Jesus hasn’t finished with me yet. And if there’s hope for me, there’s hope for you too!