Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ho Ho Ho! And Happy Easter

Ah, it’s Christmas Eve. This is a perfect time to give some thought to…Easter.

Easter?! What are you talking about? This is Christmas. Mistletoe, and Ho Ho Ho, and presents wrapped in bright red bows. Why in the world would someone want to talk about Easter mere hours away from Christmas Day?

Well, Christmas is the only time of year when many people acknowledge that there is, or was, a historical person named Jesus. No doubt Santa and Rudolph and Frosty and the website and the UPS delivery man have moved up in the polls and are now the main attractions of the season, but some manger scenes still can be found here and there, each containing a little baby Jesus statue.

Yep, it’s Jesus in those crèches all right, and that’s a good thing. But He’s just a baby, and babies are tiny and helpless. Since many people only think about Jesus at this time of year, in their minds He exists in a kind of perpetual infancy. He never grows up, He never gains wisdom, He never performs miracles, He never challenges us to confront our sinful ways and get our act together with God. And He never hangs from a cross.

The Jesus of Christmas is cute, He’s cuddly, He is 100-percent non-threatening. The Jesus of Christmas does not make people uncomfortable.

Here at Christmastime, we should ask ourselves, What is the real meaning of this holiday? Is it simply an annual stimulus to the retail sector of the national economy? Is it a convenient excuse to spend a few weeks saturating ourselves with food, alcohol, and credit card debt?

If you dig deep enough and get past all the materialistic folderol, you will discover that the true meaning of Christmas can be found outside the walls of Jerusalem where an itinerant, street-preaching rabbi hung naked from a cross beam above the city garbage dump. In other words, the true meaning of Christmas is Easter.

After all, the eternal, almighty God, the Creator of the universe, did not have a part of Himself take on human flesh just because He wanted to try the “See Ancient Palestine on Five Shekels a Day” tour. He became human for one reason: to redeem sinful mankind back to Himself.

Remember the Fall of Man? Remember sinfulness? OK, talking about sin these days generates about as much excitement as the Lawrence Welk Orchestra taking the stage at a hip-hop concert. But can anyone take an honest look around at our present culture and say that immoral and unethical behavior is not a problem?

God knows all too well that we are sinners. And He also knows that our sinfulness has created a huge gulf between His perfect holiness and us. Because He loves us so much, He humbled Himself to become one of us. This unique, supernatural event occurred at the very first Christmas in Bethlehem.

But it was only the first step. He didn’t enter into our time/space material dimension just to dazzle some shepherds and give the Three Wise Men a reason to yell, “Road trip!” He took this first step so that He could eventually take the ultimate step: the cross of Calvary.

When He died on that cross, He was the perfect, atoning sacrifice for all of our sins. And when He rose from the tomb three days later, He conquered death once and for all. Most importantly, He promised that if we put our faith in Him, we can do the same thing. 

This is the true meaning of Christmas. Keep it in mind when you pour that next eggnog, and if you’re gutsy enough, greet your friends and relatives tonight with a joyous, “Happy Easter!”  

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