Yesterday we looked at the poverty of understanding in church and culture which turns Christmas into a twee tinsel mess of meaningless metaphor and clerical virtue signalling. Today on Christmas Day lets reflect on the real meaning.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Paul was encouraging the Christians at the church in Corinth to give. He tells them about the churches in Macedonia because they were able to give generously and joyfully – even though they were poor. Why did they give? Why should they give? Why would we give? This Christmas we may have given because of guilt (‘they bought me a present so I had better get them one!) or competition (I’m going to give a bigger present to show how much more I care!). But the Macedonians gave because of the grace of Jesus.
The key question of Christmas is what do we think of Jesus? Not what do we think of the gifts he gives us…but what do we think of him? Because he is the Great gift – the ultimate gift. If you have an Iphone, it can tell you every week just how much time you have spent on it and what you have been doing. I wonder if there was an app for our minds which could show how much we think of Christ, what it would show this week, or this Christmas Day…? Maybe you could take a wee time out just to meditate and reflect on the Grace and Gift of Christ.
The Grace of Christ
He was rich. He become poor. This is not so much the economic poverty, which is often exaggerated. He was relatively poor but not in abject poverty. This is the poverty he suffered in coming from heaven to earth to be mocked , rejected, persecuted, betrayed, suffer and die – for us.
Grace = Gods riches at Christs expense. Christ was full of grace. He had the Spirit without measure whereas we get him with measure. Of his fullness we have all received. The divine became human and communicates himself to us.
The Gift of Christ
He is the gift. As Paul exclaims in 2 Corinthians 9:15 – Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. Christ is beautiful, desirable and glorious. Full of glory. Not because of the pomp, the outward glories like a great King or in a great building. We saw his glory, the glory of the one and only Son of the Father. The world sees nothing but a poor man, whom they despise and patronise. But we see his glory. We behold the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
We are made rich – These riches are not economic, but rather are salvation from sin and the blessings of the new age – Eph. 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Let’s return to this idea of giving. How can we be generous and joyful givers to others? By giving not just our material goods, but our time and ourselves. And we are only able to do this by first of all giving ourselves first to the Lord. And we only give ourselves to the Lord when we realize who he is. Then we can bless others
In the 4th Century in Turkey there was an old man – a bishop. A Godly man. One Christmas he wanted to show his gratitude to God for Jesus. So he went to a slum area of the city, carrying a heavy sack on his back. He knocked on the door of one of the little mud houses and was greeted by three children with dirty faces. He took the pack of his back and gave each of the children a lovely warm woollen robe. Then went home. The bishop was Nicholas of Myra – St Nicholas. (Here is a fascinating account of how St Nicholas merged into Santa Claus!)
We give the Gospel to every culture. As I have already shared on this blog I have been deeply moved by the testimony and letter of Pastor Wang Yi. Let me quote from it again this Christmas.
As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life. This is also the pastoral calling that I have received.
Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them. Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.
My Christmas song for this year is celebrating its 40 Years anniversary. Boney M’s Mary’s Boy Child is one of those moments where the truth of the Gospel comes in through the mainstream culture.
Last week the lead singer was being interviewed about it on BBC Radio Scotland and was asked why it was so enduring and popular. Her reply was superb..”because the Spirit helped us, We prayed….I took my Bible into the studio and sang with it in front of me!” Poor John Beattie didn’t know where to look and ended the interview.
Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible said
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day
Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day
Oh my Lord You sent your son to save us
Oh my Lord Your very self you gave us
Oh my Lord That sin may not enslave us
And love may reign once more
Oh my Lord (so praise the Lord)
They had become to doubt you
Oh my Lord (he is the truth forever)
What did they know about you
Oh my Lord (so praise the Lord)
But they were lost without you
They needed you so bad (his light is shining on us)
Have a great Christ-centred and Christ filled Christmas Day….The Son of God, truly amongst us…not as some kind of symbol or token, but in reality. Once we know God through Him then we will also know what Paul experienced:
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)