Merry Christmas everyone!
I hope you’ve gotten a chance to spend some time already today with family, friends, and loved ones. (Maybe a little bit too much time… probably why you are reading the Cultivate blog right now.) I know I am enjoying the time that I get to spend at home for a few days with my family, taking a break from it all, and enjoying the wonderful smorgasbord of food that my mom has so laboriously prepared.
Today I just wanted to offer some brief reflections of my own on Christmas. That verse above is, to me at least, one of the most beautiful statements about what we celebrate at the Christmas season. We celebrate the light and life of God that came crashing into our world in the most powerful and personal way possible at Christmas. We rejoice at the beginning of the end of bondage to sin, we celebrate God’s redemptive plan being set into motion in an enormous way, and we remember that the little baby in the manger on Christmas Day was so much more than just a child. He was and is the Son of God.
There’s something beautiful about being reunited with someone. A couple of weeks ago, I had to drive to Cincinnati for a day in order to fulfill some college degree requirements. Because I knew weather would probably be rough and snowy, I decided I’d leave on Sunday afternoon, take care of my school business Monday morning, and drive back to NWI Monday night. A nice side effect of this was that I got to spend the night at the home of my best friends from college, C.J. and Ami.
On this particular Sunday night, C.J. and Ami were busy at their church with the Christmas program happening that night, but C.J. gave me the garage code to let myself in, unpack, and get settled until they got back. As I walked through the door, I was absolutely and unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion. I looked at the walls of their home and saw pictures of them together, and how happy they looked. There were pictures everywhere of Chloe, their baby girl who is now 2 1/2 years old… she could barely even walk last time I saw her! I went upstairs and saw the former guest room, now prepped and underway to become a nursery for their newest baby on the way next year. As a small tear rolled down my cheek, I was reminded how much I love this family. I was simultaneously kicking myself for not keeping in touch better while being so happy to be with them again in this moment, if only for one night in December. Not even a terrible Sunday Night Football loss by my beloved Cincinnati Bengals was enough to ruin this mood.
As I said my goodbyes and drove home the next day, I reflected on how my experience being back with C.J., Ami, and Chloe probably parallels my journey with God. There have been a lot of ups and downs in the journey, and there have been seasons of my life where I’ve run from him, only to come back home later. The emotion and joy that I felt at being reunited with long-lost friends is probably the same emotion and the joy in some way that God feels when we are reunited with him. When Jesus came into the world in the most personal way possible, God was setting into motion his plan to draw all people to himself. I have no doubt that there is radical celebration in heaven from God himself at the heart of each person who chooses to turn back to him.
I guess that for me, Isaiah 9’s Christmas prophecy about Jesus is so important to me because it begs me to ask the question: “Why would I turn away in the first place?” God’s Son breaks us free from the chains of oppression. He is a counselor to us. He is a mighty God, greater than any other circumstance we face. He is a loving Father to us, and his kingdom brings peace. Jesus coming to our earth sets all these things into motion. This Christmas, I’m really thankful for that and I’m really thankful for the reminder of what a baby boy in a Bethlehem manger means to me, even 2,000 years later.