Monday, December 18, 2017

No Cheese, Please, It's Christmas

Sometimes, writing a blog post near Christmas can be a tough gig.

As a song-writing friend remarked recently, there are two traps to avoid: sappy sentimentalism or excessive cheesy-ness.

(Or a noxious combination of both, perhaps?)

We are a society obsessed with “Christmas cheer”, and yet some aspects of the Christmas story contain a strange combination of joyful celebration, and dark foreshadowing.

The shepherds were blown away, and multitudes of angels rejoiced (Luke 2:8-20), and yet when the Magi showed up a couple of years later, an evil king slaughtered babies in an attempt to murder the Messiah (Matthew 2:16-18).
In other words, heaven and earth rejoiced, and evil began sharpening its long knives.
Even when wise old Simeon, waiting with bated breath for the arrival of the Messiah, finally held the baby Jesus in his arms, he was overcome with joyful celebration, and yet prophesied to His mother that “a sword will pierce your soul” (Luke 2:25-35).

And as the story of Jesus unfolds — both in the Gospels and later in the book of Acts, as the apostles spread the joyful news around the known world — there is the same recurring theme of joyful celebration and evil reaction. In those who saw their need for a Savior, there was rejoicing and a desire to spread the news; in those who thought they were fine just the way they were, there was outrage and a desire to shut Jesus up.
Jesus came to offer forgiveness of sins, and that is a serious spiritual business to be in.
No wonder Satan pulled out all the stops to derail Jesus’ mission: from Herod’s slaughter of children, to the direct temptation of Jesus, the violent reaction in His own hometown, the seduction of Judas the traitor, and culminating in the blind & murderous rage of the religious leaders conspiring with a pagan government to crucify their own Messiah.
God had the last laugh, of course, when He raised Jesus from the dead three days later. There was rejoicing again, in heaven and earth (even if the disciples were in hiding when the good news came).
And from the book of Acts onward, there has been this same strange combination of joyful celebration and evil reaction. Nobody likes to be told they are a sinner in need of a Savior, even if it’s the truth (nothing new there).

In the 21st century, we are (still) a society that — like the Pharisees of old — thinks we’re fine just the way we are, and the message that we need our sins forgiven seems, well… somehow lacking in Christmas cheer.

Yet in those who have received God’s grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, there is definitely a sense of joyful celebration. Lest we forget, on the night of Jesus’ birth, the message of the angel was: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
And for those who willingly admit their need for a Savior, there’s nothing cheesy about it.

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