December 6th holds a special significance to Canadians with Hungarian beginnings, as well as those of the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Belgium. My lovely wife, who is also the general manager of this newspaper, is of Hungarian heritage, on her father's side. So Christmas interests start in our household at the beginning of December, this week.
I can hear the groans already, “aaah ca-maan, it's way too early for Christmas. I can't handle all the stress of giving gifts and spending time with relatives this early!”
I well wished a person in a coffee shop a “Merry Christmas” the other day and they looked at me with that exasperated look and said, “No way, not yet!” I could almost see their heart-rate speed up as their face fell.
Christmas burnout is a common malady for many each year as they race around, buying gifts, decorating the homes (inside and out), and imagining and re-imagining the perfect scenarios for gatherings once again. This is a common reaction for many who don't enter the Christmas season with the proper perspective.
For those of us who revel in the meaning of the season, the longer, the better. You see, the meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with gift-giving or hosting family in a frenzy of performance and perfection. Rather, it is a time when we focus on the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ, who came in the form of a newborn child, as a gift from God for all of humanity.
The gift was offered to remove the common malady of the human existence, sin. This word has been misunderstood in various ways throughout history, and so the meaning of God's gift in Christ has also been viewed as other than it's purpose. Firstly, defining the word 'sin' is not an intention to scold and deride people for their failures but to reveal its separateness from the intended nature of humanity. It simply means the missing of God's mark and so is extended to what performs that dysfunction. The intended design capability of our lives has been attacked and, therefore, interfered with, so now its healthy flow is encumbered by "Sin." Its not our fault we deal with this dysfunction, but the solution for all of this must be recognized and understood as beyond our ability to solve it. However, it has been provided for by God. Because our spiritual encoding has been rewritten, distorted by sin's presence within us, we need this to be restored to its original form, in order to even experience what our design as human beings is supposed to be.
God, coming close, being born into human reality as Jesus, offers His D.N.A. (let's say His – Devine, Nature, Adjunct) to inhabit and translate our human DNA to our “original created un-fallen” condition. Sounds wonderful doesn't it, and it is overwhelmingly amazing. Yet, we still have to deal with this misdirected function continuing in our flesh and in the world around. So, like any healthy change, lifestyle and regular exercise is the answer. In other words, we need to full-on embrace this newness of life for it to have it's effect in a place where “sin” has such a foothold.
We come up against it in life; even in this season, it has been attacked, even from very early on.
Saint Nicolas, (in Hungarian - Mikulás (or Szent Miklós) who became a Turkish monk, was orphaned around nine years old, taken in by his bishop uncle in a monastery, and had been left reasonably well off by his deceased parents. His dedication to Jesus Christ was communicated by his generous gift-giving to the impoverished, struggling lives around, especially during the celebration of Jesus' birth.
However, sin, of course, has attempted to derail the focus in “Christ-mas” from the idea of helping those in need, especially the need of this D.N.A. transfer. It's an attempt to distort and refocus people on self and pressure and a sense of not being able to give enough. Wow, how far off can we drift?
Recognizing the effort of God, to show how deeply He loves us, without our performance, through the introduction of Jesus into our world, is a profound thing and a catalyst of inner change. It is now a small but vital thing to ask him to come one step further, into our own hearts. God will not do this very personal thing without our request, so, it's clear he has come as far as he can, while still maintaining our God-given dignity. Sin has no such consideration when dealing with us; it is tenacious and greedy, consuming and claiming our lives with both subtlety and aggression.
Just watch what happens when you read this. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Tim 2:13 ESV. Did you have a flash of thought, comparing your character in this, and so were left with the idea you were so much less? If not, good on ya; however, because of the operation of 'sin,' many will have this momentary struggle. Yet, the intention of this scripture is to introduce the security of God's commitment to you, as a matter of unchanging character. It goes further than a promise, it is bedrock in who He is, in His own structure, and “he cannot deny himself.”
Christmas is more than a baby being born; it is a life's commitment to you personally, if you will take the next step and ask Jesus into your inner life, your heart, to live and guide you from there. That's the meaning of a “Merry Christmas.” In it's true form it can actually make your heart Merry. So, as the phrase goes, you better recognize! Like the angels said when he was born, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men (people) on whom his favor rests.” NIV
Have a Happy, Meaningful Christmas this year. Whenever you celebrate it, please, for your sake, invite Jesus in. It'll change the pace of your heart.