Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Paradox of the Manger

A special Christmas guest post by Ryan Wilson.  Great food for thought:

 It’s near. Can you feel it? It’s that sense of dread as you realize that you forgot to buy a gift for your Secret Santa. It’s that feeling of deflation as you look at your schedule and you realize that you don’t have a free evening from now until December 26th. It’s the season of red and green décor at Walmart, tacky yard decorations, and obnoxious songs on the radio (If I hear that refrain “We’re simply having a wonderful Christmas time” one more time, I think I’m going to deck someone’s halls!) Verily, verily I say unto you: The Christmas season is upon us once again!

 I may be overstating the negativity that surrounds the Christmas season. It’s not all bad after all! We all love (hopefully) re-connecting with friends and loved ones, and the festivities can certainly be fun. But it’s undeniable that the holidays can be an overwhelming, loud, and stressful time.

 Why do we do this to ourselves? Some may argue that it has to do with making a grand occasion out of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s his birthday, after all. Shouldn’t we be happy about the coming of Christ? Is this not reason to celebrate?

 But maybe you’re like some others who argue that all of the gifts, Christmas parties, cookies, punch and egg nog, bright lights and bombastic, ubiquitous Christmas songs actually serve to detract from the remembrance of Christ’s advent. Some even go so far as to criticize any of the customary Christmas practices at all – spurning the cultural norms of gift giving, Christmas cards, and decorations. The season of Christmas, they reason, should be a time of quiet reflection, not all of this noisy merriment.

 So which one is it: Loud, or quiet? Celebratory, or reflective? Joyous, or Somber? Joy to the World, Or Silent Night? Should we be partying? Or should we be contemplating the mystery of the incarnation?
 The correct answer is both.

 Make no mistake about it: The birth of Christ changed the world forever, and it is reason to celebrate! When the angels showed up in the shepherds’ field, it was BOOM! CHRIST IS HERE! GO NOW AND WORSHIP HIM! HALLELUJAH! And they left their flocks and ran to the manger, praising God!

 But the story is more than that. It also is a story of how Christ humbled himself in order to lift the entire world out of the devil’s snare. The glorious, eternal, majestic Son of God, made into humble human flesh. And there weren’t any trumpets blaring, calling attention to that fateful birth in Bethlehem. He wasn’t born in a palace, or lifted high so the whole world could see him (like Lion King). Most of humanity actually missed this critically huge moment in history. Most people didn’t take any notice of the ostensibly common child in a common girl’s arms.

 But for those in the know, it was the greatest moment in human history up to that point in time. The magi travelled far to worship him. Most scholars actually believe that they didn’t see the child until he was two years old. But they understood intuitively the enormous implications of that Silent Night when the God-child came into our world. It was the first fruits of a deconstruction of the figurative curtain separating the human from the divine, the holy from the common, the heavens and the earth. It was the beginning of a revolution that marches on to this day, and will continue on until Christ’s second coming. That is reason to be ecstatic at Christmas time!

 So this Christmas – when you, like me, are feeling a bit anxious for the Christmas season to be over and for life as usual to continue, take the time to ponder how the little child in your nativity set has changed the world forever. Remember that it is because of his advent that we can have hope beyond the grave. He is, as the cliché expression goes, the reason for the season, and the appropriate response… the wise response… is to worship him.

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