I hope you are enjoying Christmas this year. Perhaps, like many people I know, you’ve had to scale back your gift-giving. That’s not all bad. It leaves us with a bit more time to enjoy one another’s company and to renew old friendships.
Christmas never was about the gifts, although retailers and excited young children – the two perhaps not really so different – were quick to tell us, “It’s all about the gifts! Pull out the plastic and show them you love them!”
The secular world, you see, has developed its own “stories” about Christmas. Most often, secular Christmas “stories” are crafted from one tiny glimpse of the real Christmas story. Gift-giving was the bit of the Christmas story that secularists seized upon, because it was easy to do and seemed harmless enough.
The real gift of Christmas is more difficult to understand. Like blind men describing an elephant by touch, none of us will ever grasp Christmas’ enormity or its entirety. And yet, we are its eternal beneficiaries.
Mankind’s separation from God entered the world through the disobedience of one man, the first Adam. In God’s perfect equation, He sent the one who had never disobeyed him, and whom He loved above all others, to pay the price: Death and separation from the eternal Father.
The Son, in His perfect love for the Father, agreed to pay the price that we owed for our sin, but could never pay. That is the gift-giving that we celebrate this Christmas.
Thirty-three years after the first Christmas, after that helpless baby grew into a man and hung on a Roman cross to endure his Father’s wrath and separation in our place, much of the world continues to view Jesus as a helpless baby who drops by once every year.
The disciple Thomas (from whom we get the term “Doubting Thomas”) made that same mistake. Confronted with his colleagues who reported seeing the resurrected Jesus, Thomas scoffed:
“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25 KJV).
Eight days later, Thomas had that opportunity. The disciples were all together, when Jesus appeared in the room and settled his gaze upon Thomas:
“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).
Thomas did not take Jesus up on that invitation. Instead, he simply uttered the words, “My Lord and my God!” At that moment, Thomas understood who Jesus really was.
Like Doubting Thomas, much of the world today demands to see for themselves the nail prints in His hands. They will. The world is spinning rapidly toward that confrontation. I do not envy them that opportunity.
But to all those who do believe, a very Merry Christmas.