At this time of year when you drive on the roads there is all sorts of dirt that gets sprayed up onto the windscreen, making it hard to see until you squirt the water to allow the wipers to clear the windscreen. And then within a minute you find yourself having to do it again. Here’s the thing – cleaning the windscreen doesn’t change what is on the road, but it does help you see it with greater clarity. The road is still there, but when the windscreen is covered in dirt you can miss important details, like a car emerging from a junction ahead of you.
With Christmas often we can have lots of metaphorical dirt on the windscreen, stuff that get added in that distracts us from seeing clearly all the detail of what God was doing. We can get so caught up in lights, presents, food and parties. There is so much to do and so little time and all too often it is Jesus who gets pushed to the margins. Jesus, who was the reason for is all to start with.
Maybe this Christmas season we need to slow ourselves down and remember the simple truths of the Christmas story.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Christmas reminds us firstly that we have been reconciled with God. Sin had left us cut off, the relationship broken right from that moment in the Garden of Eden where we went our own way and ate the forbidden fruit. But that was not the end of the story. Right the way back in Genesis 3 a serpent crusher was promised. Jesus was always the plan. God never abandoned us.
Christmas reminds us of the price Jesus paid to reconcile us. He humbled himself, left the throne of heaven, came to a lowly manager and was born as a baby. He took our shame, bore our disgrace, carried our cross and showed us grace.
Christmas has been romanticised with cards depicting a cute nativity scene, but it was messy. There was a long journey to Bethlehem for Mary whilst heavily pregnant. Joseph forgot to secure an airBnB and ended up with a stable that would have got 1 star on tripadvisor. There would have been the noise and smell of animals all around. There was no family support, despite them returning to Joseph’s home-town for the census. The shame of Mary being pregnant out of wedlock ensured no family member would take them in. They had no friends nearby. The only company they had as Jesus was born were a bunch of outcast shepherds.
Jesus went from the glory of heaven to the anonymity of a Bethlehem manger to the humility of a Jerusalem cross so that we could be reconciled to God – that’s how much He loves us, that is how much He thinks of us, that He would be willing to go through that for us.
We must remember that at Christmas – that there was the shadow of a cross looming over the manger. Jesus knew where coming to earth would ultimately lead and He still chose to come because of His love for us, and for the whole world.
We celebrate the joy of Christmas, but we must also remember the cross, the price Jesus paid for us to be reconciled. We must not miss that. We can be distracted by all the extra trimmings that get added to Christmas, but we can also get distracted by focusing on the baby and forgetting the glorious truth of all that the babe wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger would grow up to achieve for us.
Christmas also reminds us that this glorious gift of reconciliation is for everyone. It wasn’t just for the Jews – we see this clearly as wise men from the East came bearing gifts, non-Jewish visitors being among the first to acknowledge Jesus as king. It wasn’t just for those who have it all together. The shepherds were considered unclean outcasts. It was a job no-one aspired to. And yet they were the first to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. This was good news of great joy and peace for all people.
We now have been given the ministry of reconciliation, to implore people to be reconciled with God. The promise of Christmas is that God is with us, that He cares for us, that He moved into our neighbourhood and made a way for us to be reconciled with Him. That is what we must see clearly, and it is what we must proclaim clearly. So enjoy the presents, the songs, the lights, the food. But keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and the promise of reconciliation that is at the heart of Christmas.