There is so much that goes on during the Christmas season, so many different wonderful messages about things like family, kindness, and generosity that it can become difficult to focus on any one thing. It’s a bit like having 10 desserts in front of you, all of them among your favorites. If you take all 10, you’ll have just a little bit of each one, but perhaps not enough to satisfy your craving for any one item. Sometimes I think Christmas becomes like that—we’re so busy trying to experience and do all of it that we don’t meaningfully experience or do any of it! The heart of Christmas, of course, is the incarnation: that God Himself has become completely human, just like you and me, while still remaining completely God. What would Christmas look like if the incarnation is at the center of our celebration?
On that first Christmas God didn’t stay home. He didn’t even invite people over to his house! No, on Christmas God left His house for our own. He left His comfort to share our discomfort. He got up close and personal with the people on the margins—born among the livestock, laid in a feeding trough, celebrated by smelly shepherds, perceived as a bastard in a society that deeply cared about such things, and became part of a poor family.
With the incarnation in mind we realize that Christmas is about the gift of God’s personal presence with us: that God goes to any length to seek and to save. If he was willing to spend his first night on earth in a feeding trough, certainly he is willing to come to your home, come to your family, even come into your heart.
How will God use you this Christmas in light of the incarnation? Will you go out to see what the world is like for your neighbor? Will you seek out the stranger even if it means sharing that person’s life for a time? Will you enter into the loneliness of the lonely? Will you do it personally—not just in your mind, but with your whole heart and whole body in order to pick up part of another person’s load in life and to help carry it?
Remembering the great incarnation, practice incarnation yourself this season; go to a place you wouldn’t normally go and make a friend. Invite a hurting person to your Christmas celebration. Or maybe you need to benefit from Christmas this year—seek help, ask for personal presence, join your family, or even go to church. If you’re already in the pews, make sure to welcome the stranger and love them—it is Christmas after all!
I don’t want to diminish the importance and goodness of all the other traditions that we enjoy. I hope you hang Christmas lights, buy gifts for people you love, have a spectacular Christmas dinner, sing Christmas carols, and enjoy any other tradition you have. But my prayer for myself– and for you—is that we will incarnate Christmas, like Jesus.
Ian Hodge is pastor of the Lemon Cove Community Church in Lemon Cove. He may be reached by calling 559-597-2249.
Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Community Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.