I'm home (in Iowa) for the holidays. It's been a joyful time being with family, opening presents, singing Christmas carols, and eating lots of food! Perhaps like many of you, my family went to a Christmas Eve service together. The service included many songs and many Scripture readings which I enjoyed hearing and taking in. And then there was the message. It was okay, but typical of most Christmas sermons. Let me explain. Most Christmas sermons, like the one I heard, tell of how God has come down to us (the incarnation) so he can show us the way and comfort us in our dark times. That's true, but the incarnation is not the end. In fact, the only reason why God came down is so that he would be lifted up on a tree at Calvary. The incarnation means nothing without the crucifixion. But this is the disturbing part of Christmas, isn't it? The little baby born in Bethlehem is the one who grew up and died on a bloody cross at Calvary. And if we tell only the beginning of the story we have no story at all -- at least no gospel story.
C.J. Mahaney puts it this way:
The purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death. Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner.
And so, in order for us to see Christmas for what Christmas really is, we must first see how disturbing the Christmas message really is.
Mahaney tells of an article written some years ago in WORLD Magazine by William H. Smith with the title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).
Smith ends his column with these words which I invite you to ponder:
Only those who have been profoundly disturbed to the point of deep repentance are able to receive the tidings of comfort, peace, and joy that Christmas proclaims.
And so my prayer for you and me is that we would be filled with peace and joy this Christmas--because we have been disturbed by the God who was born in a manger so he could die on a cross for our sins.