The world has come down with a bad case of the Bah humbug. Not in all places mind you. But there is a general malaise of Scrooge smathered across the major portion of our present situation. The 2020 riots leave a sour taste in the mouth. The COVID masks seem to keep it in. And now that we are at six hundred and something days to slow the spread, several folks are just settling down into the slough. It is easy to become disenchanted with things around here. And that is the very thing we must not do. No settling in the slough; no disenchantment. Christmas is just around the corner and it gives us an opportunity to consider how enchanted this place is.
The general plan at Christmas, as always, is that you have to live in the world while not being of it. That’s not a quaint phrase. Jesus uses this very language, saying we are in the world but not of it (John 17:11, 16). So you have to live on earth while not being earthly and reside in heaven while your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Mistakes abound along these lines.
Some live as if they have been taken out of the world entirely. You’ve heard from them before, “Christmas isn’t a Christian thing. It’s all about materialism. I’ll be doing my devotions while you drink egg nog, sinner.” Others err in getting worldly. They’ve gotten lost in the egg nog, having forgotten why they were drinking it in the first place. (For those wondering, you drink egg nog because unto a child is born, unto us a son is given. Come on, why else would you drink it?)
But, then there are the tightrope walkers, and they are, well, uptight. They see the ditches so they’re back and forth, micromanaging everybody. Hang a little holly on the tree, read J. C. Ryle’s Holiness, make up the hot cocoa, J. C. Ryle’s Holiness, look at the Christmas lights, J. C. Ryle’s Holiness. Now, that’s not a bad pattern at all, but it is miserable if you’re doing it in the wrong way, which would be by condemnation, through works, in self rather than by grace, through faith, in Christ. If you’re taking the latter route, then knock yourself out with that routine: and here is a great copy of J. C. Ryle’s Holinessyou can pick up, published by Canon Press.
Before we leave off all of the ways to facepalm Christmas, let us not forget the fainting elf error. This person sees the dangers outlined above. And it all just seems too daunting. So instead of walking ahead, they sulk down under shovels of self-loating. These folks know that Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s coming. They get that heaven and earth are both in play. They see the need for spiritual and physical work to repeat the sounding joy. But, they just sink. They do a Romans 7 thing, but stop just before verse 25. “I delight in Christmas festivities in my inner man, but I see another law in my members . . . O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? . . . Nobody, it’s hopeless!” No, no, that’s not how the verse goes.
Verse 25 says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He is the One who can deliver us from the body of death. And there’s the Christmas message for you. The point is not to look at all of the errors above and make sure that you, while ignoring the Word made flesh in Bethlehem, navigate the season without getting into a ditch. The point is that we’re all in the ditch. The whole world is stuck in the mud. And Christ came down with the tow truck.
Fuel for an Enchanted Christmas
Christ’s advent is utterly confounding. It is above reason and full of wonder. It keeps ungodly presidents and politicians up at night. It exceeds what the biblical scholar can pen in his latest theological treatise, no matter how many pages. Consider just the following glimmer of Christmas glory.
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Now, that Word is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. He was with God in the beginning. And back then at the creation of our father Adam, Jesus was not human. He took humanity upon Himself. But, a real and complete creature did not sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven before Christ’s advent, death, resurrection, and ascension. But, when Christ came He took upon Himself humanity. He took upon Himself creaturliness. Upon His resurrection, He ascended to the Father’s right hand where He is still fully God and fully man. A real man sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. A creature, albeit no mere creature, sits at the right hand of the Creator.
What’s more, we Christians are now seated with that Godman in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). So here you are on earth and, at the same time, there you are in heaven in Christ. You say, “How am I to keep my eye on heaven and earth this Christmas?” The answer is Christ.
The world that we now live in has been fundamentally changed since the Creator has entered it. And we need to take a step back to see the glory. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” So God created all that has been made. And everything that is has been made, except God. So there are two distinct categories that we absolutely must keep clear. First, there is the Creator. Second, there is the creature. Imagine two distinct circles on a white board, one above the other. The top circle represents God and the bottom circle represents everything else: angels, mushrooms, candy canes, and the real Saint Nicholas. This is a basic Christian teaching that has been too little emphasized. We are not pantheists. God and creation are distinct.
Now, back to the mainline. The world, which again is distinct from God, has been entered into by God. Jesus says God sent Him into the world (John 17:18). God the Creator in Christ entered into this creation while remaining distinct from this creation. What does that do to the two circles on the white board? What would it look like now? I dunno. And what does that mean for human life, now that a human body and soul has been united to deity in one person? It means glory that we can’t comprehend.
On top of all of this, the Godman arrives on earth saying that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). Now heaven is not earth and earth is not heaven. And there is Jesus, standing on earth, saying that the kingdom of heaven is here.
We can’t get our minds around any of these things. The point is not that we would. What Chesterton once said of nature has application to the glory of Christ’s advent—”All the terms used in the science books, ‘law,’ ‘necessity,’ ‘order,’ ‘tendency,’ and so on, are really unintellectual . . . The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, ‘charm,’ ‘spell,’ ‘enchantment.’ They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched.”
Modern man has overreached and Christmas exposes him. He thinks he can put everything in a petri dish. He believes he can walk the tightrope, classifying everything and tying it all off in a bow, like a perfectly wrapped Christmas present. But, Christ is the one who holds all things together: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself: by him I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:19-20).
There it is. Fodder for your Christmas spirit.